Equal Time: Manchester United don't need a new right winger owing to Mason Greenwood
Background image: Alexander Kachkaev, CC BY 3.0
Life at Manchester United hasn’t been the kindest to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The disaster which unfolded in the final weeks of last season has threatened to separate the fanbase from its beloved club. However, with his first pre-season as manager, the Norwegian is ready for a clean slate.
The summer holiday started out as relatively quiet before spiralling out of control with Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba’s futures coming under question. While the Red Devils have shown their grit in refusing to bulk under pressure, Ed Woodward continues working on roping in the necessary reinforcements.
With Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s arrival, Solskjaer’s right-back woes have finally found a solution. With the tough-tackling player nicknamed “The Spider”, Ole’s found his upgrade over the lacklustre Ashley Young. Daniel James’ case is a bit different. He’s similar to Alexis Sanchez in the regard he plays almost anywhere in the attacking third.
Like the Chilean, James is also proficient down the left in darting past defenders to cause havoc. If his debut against Perth Glory proved anything, there’s reason for excitement on that front. Now, the Welsh winger can easily operate down the right due to his blistering pace and ability to dart into the box to create chances. Solskjaer, although, is craving for more additions to brighten up his attacking trio.
But in the dysfunctional management under the Glazers, you can’t always get what you want. As his predecessors have had to do before him, Solskjaer will, unfortunately, need to make do with what he already possesses. To his advantage, it's inscribed in his DNA to give youngsters priorities to break through the system.
The Norwegian’s handed a number of youth academy stars opportunities during his short time, but one who’s particularly impressed is Mason Greenwood. In a rather uncanny move, the 17-year-old’s been operating as a right-winger for the senior team when he’s known for his excellent work as a centre-forward. This is a particular tactic which Ole’s tinkered with for months.
Even Romelu Lukaku was used as a make-shift right-winger towards the second half of last season. To much surprise, he made a decent impression, producing some assists and his crossing ability is much more effective than the natural wingers. Greenwood’s also been moulded in a similar way, but encouraged to cut inside to create chances rather than fling unnecessary crosses which aren't capitalised.
He netted over 40 times for the Red Devils’ youth squads last season, but it’s not only his finishing which stands out. The teenager us surprisingly quick going forward and loves running straight at defenders, making them nervous. In their bitter end-of-season loss to Cardiff, he was undoubtedly the best player with his scintillating work brightening up a sombre Old Trafford.
Even against Perth Glory, he struck the post multiple times in only forty-five minutes! Since he came on, the Red Devils felt like a breath of fresh air. With his impressive dribbling techniques and ability to squeeze past defenders, the 17-year-old is the direct right-winger United haven’t had in a long time. Of course, he’s no Arjen Robben or Mo Salah, but Greenwood possesses the fire which could revitalise their attack. Against Leeds United, the young Englishman looked just as menacing, while also scoring his first goal.
Of course, it’ll take time to become a regular at Manchester United. But with James’ involvement down the right with his own flash-like pace, Greenwood could slowly build on his game while putting the pressure on to push for a start. Moreover, he seems to have a growing connection with Wan-Bissaka. The former Crystal Palace star’s free from any cobwebs holding him back from focusing on his attacking game anymore, as his own incisive movement and intuitive distribution could reinvigorate United’s right-side for years to come.
Currently, the bigger priority at United is of a world-class centre-back. After conceding fifty-three goals last season, there’s clearly need for a strong defensive general to complement the strong Victor Lindelof. Be it the rumoured Harry Maguire or anyone else, serious cash must be spent to solve the issue. Moreover, a quality midfielder is also a necessity to fill Ander Herrera’s void in midfield and ease up Pogba’s responsibilities.
The right-winger hunt must be defused for now. However, as they say, one locked door opens up multiple others. With James already looking a thrilling prospect guaranteed to spice up the right side, working hard to transform young Greenwood into the dynamic winger he craves will be like getting two birds with one stone for Ole.