The football world can be a toxic environment to inhabit. No sooner has our beautiful game produced a star for the future than those who occupy the ugliest corners of our sport look to chop them down and write them off.
Unbelievably, Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood has already been billed as a wonderkid, a generational talent, and a lazy, unprofessional liability all in the space of two seasons.
He was the nation’s sweetheart and was hailed for his first senior England call-up in August 2020, but that was the moment when the knives began to be sharpened. A stupid, childish mistake saw him and Phil Foden sent home from the training camp, and so began the endless stories questioning his mentality and attitude.
Greenwood made an error – a bad one – and he knew it. But he wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last. The rest of the attacks on him have been proven to be completely unfounded and nothing more than tabloid gossip, and credit to the forward, he has ignored the outside world, and got on with rewriting his own story.
Now he can point to some genuine, cold hard facts which demonstrate just how good he is, and how everything else written about him should be tossed in the bin. On Sunday afternoon, Greenwood started for Man Utd in their 3-1 victory away at Aston Villa, scoring the clutch second goal.
In doing so, he also broke a club record – one set by their all-time leading scorer, Wayne Rooney. Greenwood’s sixth goal of the season was his 16th ever in the top flight, and given his tender 19 years of age, he has now become the highest scoring Man Utd teenager in Premier League history.
Sunday’s drilled strike into the near post put the England international one goal ahead of Rooney, and three above Marcus Rashford, another academy product acting as a role model for all young, aspiring footballers in the Manchester area.
All of this, before he’s even entered his twenties. Greenwood is a gifted footballer, one who can play either down the middle or out wide, who is unerringly comfortable on either foot, and has shown predatory instincts which rival any of Man Utd’s great centre forwards down the years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed his development brilliantly, initially allowing him to thrive in the Europa League in the 2019/20 campaign, while shielding him from the demands of 90 minutes a week in the Premier League.
The Norwegian boss introduced Greenwood as a domestic regular after the coronavirus break came to an end in June 2020, and he has not looked back since. Greenwood has bagged 29 goals in all competitions over the two years, but the 16 Premier League successes show a man capable of holding his own in the fiercest and most competitive league in the world.
The striker’s place in the England setup is in doubt this summer, given the embarrassment of riches at Gareth Southgate’s disposal. But he nor Man Utd fans should fear that their starlet will lose his way.
Greenwood has already shown the hunger required to silence his critics once, and he won’t stop until he is a bonafide star of the game. Sit back and enjoy the ride, Red Devils, it’s going to be an exciting one.