Why Greenwood's goal is a big moment for him
One of the great things about watching Manchester United's Academy teams is it can offer a fascinating glimpse into the future. And, sometimes, that future is not very far away at all.
Mason Greenwood had already been a threat at Old Trafford on Sunday, when he latched onto Marcus Rashford's pass and calmly ignored a bellowing Andy Robertson chasing him down to steer a nerveless finish past Alisson for the equaliser.
A cheeky wave to the camera, accompanied by a big grin, was the perfect way of illustrating how the teenager is handling all the attention but it somehow encapsulated just how young he still is. This is a boy still learning his trade who has had to deal with criticism already, much of it unfair when you consider his role in the side has evolved. There are plenty of signs that his all-round game is developing, with his ability to keep possession in tight spaces and increased defensive responsibility just two noticeable facets.
Of course, he also supplied the assist for fellow Academy graduate Rashford in the second half during the 3-2 win and looks to be hitting top form at just the right time, considering the challenges that lie ahead.
Yet it is easy to forget it was not long ago when Greenwood was taking on Liverpool's Under-18s - almost two years to the day, in fact. On 26 January 2019, Neil Ryan's boys faced our arch-rivals in a cup tie of their own and, in the best United traditions, came from 2-0 down to prevail 3-2, following extra-time.
Greenwood set up Di'Shon Bernard's goal and scored two free-kicks, both with his unfavoured right foot, and the winner bore similarities to Bruno Fernandes's super strike on Sunday, but we all know what a huge gulf there is between Academy and senior football. However, in two short years, when so much has happened in the world to throw anybody off course, there is no doubt that Mason continues to show he belongs at the elite level.
He admits the second season was always going to throw up more obstacles, as opponents learned how they could nullify his main strengths, but he has been treated carefully and, it has to be said, expertly by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the coaching team who have been able to bring him to the boil again.
One of the biggest compliments you can pay the 19-year-old is you always back him to score when he gets the chance to fire off a shot.
Rashford has already proved he is capable of hurting Liverpool, as he did so again with a Man-of-the-Match performance at the weekend. To produce a forward from the Academy who, at 23, already has four goals against our fiercest rivals would probably be beyond anybody's wildest dreams. So to have two up there now, with Mason being able to also shine on the big stage when still so tender in footballing years is utterly remarkable.
And scoring in a game against Liverpool is almost a rite of passage for a Manchester United player. Many accomplished stars of the past never managed it and it is something that undoubtedly elevates a Red in the eyes of the supporters onto a new level. He did it in the Under-18s and now Mason has a strike to his name against them at senior level, hopefully the first of many.
It is also worth pointing out he has scored in all competitions this term as well, a feat he managed in his first full season as well.
Of course, Mason is not the only homegrown talent making his mark under Solskjaer - he was one of five who started the fourth-round victory. Dean Henderson kept goal, while Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba were in midfield, with Rashford rampaging down the flanks. Axel Tuanzebe was on the bench.
Life comes at you fast and football life sometimes comes even faster. Mason Greenwood remains well ahead of schedule and having this goal to his name, against our fiercest foes, is a massive boost for all concerned.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.