ARNAV KHANNA | 17th August 2021

The moment Mason Greenwood latched onto Paul Pogba’s incisive through ball in the 52nd minute, you just knew what was about to happen. Tight angle, defender breathing down his neck, goalkeeper poised – nothing mattered.

The ball struck the right post and nestled in after a trademark Greenwood “across the body” shot. United 2 Leeds 1.

Before I dissect his game further, I want you to focus on the very first sentence that kickstarted this article.

So much can be extrapolated about him from those 20-odd words. His decisiveness, his composure, the amount of faith the fans have in him.

All features usually associated with certified goalscorers. A sense of faith that was commanded by the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nisterlrooy.

A sense of quiet confidence takes over one when watching a teenager who plays way beyond his years. Yes, a teenager who doesn’t look like he belongs doing anything on the planet as much as he does, starting up front and center for Manchester United.

If you’re one of those unconvinced about my previous statement, or about Greenwood as a No. 9 in general, Leeds is or rather, should have been the game that could change your mind.

After all, aside from the finish, the way Carrington’s finest proponent took care of the ball in a game underlined with meaty midfield battles and clashing challenges jumps out at you. Touch, drive, pass, move.

I do not remember seeing a centre forward adorning United’s devilish ed who is so effective in the final phase while being so efficient with the ball at his feet at the same time. I fail trying to conjure a moment in my memory where Mason needlessly gave the ball away.

This becomes even more impressive when you realize that Greenwood completed 5 dribbles and provided 5 passes into the box throughout the game.

You don’t associate strikers with this tidiness and them not being a winger or attacking midfielder when putting forth such a description seems…well, rare.

Actually, when you dig deeper, you realize the kid’s a true phenom and possesses the kind of gift that allows his team to wield a unique tactical weapon.

Greenwood drops deep, dragging defenders with him, allowing Bruno Fernandes to make runs in behind as a “support striker” as shifts into the left channel, freeing up Pogba to weave his magic in the middle.

Greenwood’s movement looks he’s being controlled by a puppet master, making sure he’s on strings when the lad really is on autopilot; the definition of a “natural”.

The England international interchanged positions and spaces throughout the game, unsettling the Leeds backline and dragging the midfield and defence out of position.

Wait, let’s make it simple.

Essentially, United have a player on their hands who can play across the frontline, link play up, receive a pass with his back to goal, finish with either foot, run at his man, dribble out of a press, cross with precision, provide switches of play while being an outlet.

Let me catch my breath.

How many players in world football can do all of this again?

And you saw this all game against United’s age-old enemy. In fact, one can see glimpses of his ability even going back to the FA Cup quarter-finals against Leicester.

Amongst a collective of youth players, he stood out like a veteran, his seniority in play far greater than his seniority in age. He scored of course and was the Man of The Match as well.

So, what have we learnt after all?

We have learnt that Mason Greenwood is ready. His physique is fuller, his stride is longer and his instincts have been sharpened.

The fact that he can operate both as an outlet and as a “ball to feet” forward makes him perfect in transition and against settled blocks.

Really, what is a weakness in his game? Heading and jumping can be highlighted but that kink will be ironed out with time and training. Remember, he’s still a teenager.

Just look at the company this boy is keeping. People forgot what Mason could muster because he had a wobbly start to the 2020/21 season.

That was a scary patch, I will agree. Well, the future is going to be scary, but not for us.

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