Mason Greenwood applauds fans after win over Partizan Belgrade.

Opinion: Scoring trio bodes well for United

After Manchester United’s comfortable 3-0 win over Partizan Belgrade on Thursday evening, the club ran a poll on its Official App asking which of the Reds’ three strikes was the best. Would Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford get your vote?

Martial’s jinking high-wire solo effort ultimately emerged triumphant, but the real story of the evening was the 25-minute period before half-time, when all three young forwards began a kind of harmonic blitzkrieg on the Serbian goal.
 
It was the first time the trio had started a match together. The first time they'd all scored in the same match. And, despite the ease with which Partizan were overcome, it was difficult not to wonder, internally, whether this embryonic partnership might represent the first glimpse of the shape of United to come during the next few years.
 
How significant could this triple-threat combination be? Any grandiose statements should inevitably be accompanied with caveats, of course. After all, United are a young team that has struggled for consistency so far this season, and to reach a level that befits the name ‘Manchester United’, the side will need to function smoothly in all areas, not just attack.

Highlights: United 3 Partizan Belgrade 0Video

And let’s not forget the influence of Juan Mata in the success against Belgrade’s Black and Whites. While Rashford, Martial and Greenwood spearheaded our goal threat, the Spaniard’s artful movement and wise distribution of the ball sprinkled an important dose of maturity over the mixture.
 
But beyond the caveats, here are three young players richly blessed with potential, who all appeared to complement each other nicely. On an exceptionally dank evening at Old Trafford, their effervescence helped to brighten what could have been a bleak, uninspiring couple of hours.

However, after this impressive display, the questions on everyone's lips are: why did it work so excitingly and will it happen again?

Rashford and Martial both have over 50 goals for the club but, despite years of experience in the first team, they are finally receiving extended runs in the starting XI, in the positions that best suit their individual styles. They already have 13 goals between them this season, despite the latter missing an extended period with injury.

The former’s blistering, insurgent pace adds a raw, direct threat from the left flank, and allows him to attack that inside-left channel, where he’s hurt Liverpool, Manchester City and many others during his three-year spell in the senior team.
 
Martial is now back at centre-forward, where he first soared at United under Louis van Gaal in the 2015/16 season. While he is also able to threaten from the left wing, the Frenchman’s strength and ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play from the centre, using his close control, is a valuable asset for Solskjaer’s side, and one that was missed during that injury-enforced absence earlier in the campaign.
 
In the Partizan game, Martial received several balls fired into him at high pace from Scott McTominay and trapped them without fuss. That's hugely important for a side that wants to attack from as many angles as possible.
On the right, 18-year-old Greenwood doesn’t possess the upper-body strength of Martial at this nascent stage of his career, or the lightning, raw pace of Rashford, but he boasts other unique characteristics. Primary amongst them is his ability to use either foot. Plenty of other footballers can use both feet fairly serviceably but, with Greenwood, there is an indistinguishable facility with either. Whatever he can do with his right, he can do with his left. If you want conclusive proof, check out the free-kicks he's converted at youth level.
 
His first senior goal, against Astana, was scored with his right. His second and third, against Rochdale and Partizan, were fired home with his left. 
 
There’s more: Greenwood’s intelligent passing and decision-making were also in evidence against the Serbians. He became the youngest man to score and assist for United in a European game when the ball somewhat fortuitously rebounded off him and fell to Martial for the Reds’ second, but his vision could be seen more clearly after the interval, when he slid the Frenchman in smartly, only for a last-ditch tackle to deny our no.9 the chance to double his tally. 
 
Despite Greenwood's tender age, everything he does with the ball suggests a mature interpretation of the game.
Mason Greenwood takes on Astana.
Greenwood's ability with both feet is a huge problem for defenders, as Astana learned on matchday one.
But most pleasing, arguably, was the speed of the movement and interplay behind the triumvirate’s play; the intuitive way they seemed to interpret each move. During that 25-minute spell leading up to the break, United looked like scoring every time they went forward and, in truth, should have put five or six past their opponents.
 
Martial and Rashford dovetailed sublimely in the 3-1 win over Norwich last month. With Greenwood now finding his feet in the first team, is their collaboration at the head of the United forward line about to admit a third partner?
 
Their triad boasts a combined age of just 21, so it would be wise for the many millions among United’s urging and eager support to remain patient, as Ole’s new-look team is sculpted over the next year or two. But in Martial, Rashford and Greenwood – not to mention Daniel James and the still-to-return Paul Pogba – they have some lavish raw materials to work in the final third of the pitch.
 
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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