Wednesday 23 October 2019

Teen star Greenwood shoots the lights out

Manchester United 1 FC Astana 0

Remember the name: Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood celebrates scoring the winner against FC Astana at Old Trafford. Photo: Oli SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Remember the name: Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood celebrates scoring the winner against FC Astana at Old Trafford. Photo: Oli SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

James Ducker

There is probably never a bad time for a 17-year-old to claim his first goal for Manchester United, but boy was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer grateful to Mason Greenwood for his moment of inspiration.

This was threatening to become an embarrassing night's work for United against the champions of Kazakhstan when Greenwood stepped up, grabbed a limp game by the scuff of its neck and underlined why his manager rates him as one of the most naturally instinctive finishers he has witnessed.

Mason Greenwood strikes the winner. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Mason Greenwood strikes the winner. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Still 12 days short of his eighteenth birthday, Greenwood demonstrated the predatory brilliance and cool head of a much more seasoned striker when he turned Dorin Rotariu inside out, shifting his weight from one side to the next, before ramming home a precise shot through the legs of Nenad Eric.

Skilled forwards make scoring through the legs of goalkeeper a habit and there was nothing fortuitous about Greenwood's aim, just as he demonstrated the enormous benefits of being so two-footed.

Watch the way Greenwood moves and strikes the ball and it is hard not to think of Robin van Persie.

Historic

That historic goal aside, this was a slog much from start to finish. Marcus Rashford endured a frustrating time in front of goal, and while Marcos Rojo will be happy with his night's work, there was little else to write home about.

Marcus Rashford tackles Antonio Rukavina. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images
Marcus Rashford tackles Antonio Rukavina. Photo: George Wood/Getty Images

Rashford and Nemanja Matic were the only survivors from the starting line-up against Leicester and the other nine players on the field were making either their first start or first appearance for the club this season.

In the case of youngsters, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, this was their first professional start for United.

Astana's limitations were clear and obvious which, naturally, made the wait for a breakthrough all the more frustrating for a two-thirds full Old Trafford. Astana got bodies behind the ball. United generally run into difficulties when sides do that.

By the hour mark, when Astana threatened to take the lead after a rare venture forward, the first chants of "attack, attack, attack" surfaced.

United's best chances before then had fallen to Rashford. There were two in as many minutes, both from excellent balls from the lesser-spotted Rojo. The first was volleyed wide, the second was straight at the goalkeeper.

Fred had forced a diving save from a free-kick, having crashed a long-range drive against the woodwork only two minutes in, but it all felt rather forced for United.

This was the first real look at the youngsters in whom Solskjaer is pinning so much faith since the club's summer tour, when Greenwood, Chong, Gomes and Axel Tuanzebe advanced their claims. Greenwood continues to write his own headlines.

As for Chong and Gomes, this became a tough night after bright beginnings and both had left the field by the time their fellow academy graduate netted the winner.

The arrival of Jesse Lingard - who hit a post - and Juan Mata certainly brought some added impetus to United. It was, though, all about Greenwood in the end.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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