Record-breaking Mason celebrates 20th birthday
Mason Greenwood turns 20 today after a record-breaking two-and-a-half years in the Manchester United first team.
There’s little better as a United fan than watching a talented and hard-working Academy graduate push themselves on in the first team. It’s one thing seeing a player make their debut, it’s another watching the week-by-week progress, the added skills and improved composure, the ups and the downs.
That’s what we’ve seen with Mason, who has come back from lockdowns and summers off having bulked up, who has worked on his decision-making, his all-round game, his heading, on shooting through the defender’s legs, on shooting early while the goalkeeper isn’t yet set. And while he’s improved, he’s scored loads.
Three goals in three games in August means Greenwood celebrates his 20th birthday with 32 United strikes to his name, ranking just behind George Best (37) and Norman Whiteside (39) for goals scored as a teenager.
He was United’s youngest scorer in European competition (17 years, 353 days), the first player born in the 2000s to score for the club and the fifth United player to reach 100 appearances before their 20th birthday, after Best, Whiteside, Duncan Edwards and Ryan Giggs.
No United player has scored more goals in a single season aged 18 than Greenwood (17, equal to Best, Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd) and he’s one of only four teenagers to score 20 Premier League goals (Rooney, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen). The records are many.
The last month has been an interesting one for Greenwood. Three goals in three games in August – the performance against Leeds United, mature and effective, the pick of the bunch – marked a fantastic start to the season.
In September, Greenwood hasn't found the back of the net in any of his five appearances. And yet, he’s been so exciting to watch. Coming off the bench in the League Cup against West Ham, it was like we’d brought on a world-class player in his prime, ready to skin opposition defenders with ease. That he did, time and time again, but United couldn’t find the goal.
The same was true against Aston Villa, a failure to find the all-important final piece to the move, but an incredible number of chances created with his dribbling. August was another reminder of his goalscoring ability, September proved a month to demonstrate his knack for impacting games when his finishing isn’t quite there.
“He’s only 20?” Paddy Crerand says of Greenwood.
“I think he’s a terrific player, Mason Greenwood. It’s fantastic when you’ve got a player who’s two-footed like that. He’s comfortable on either side. I’d like to ask Mason, what is his best foot? You can’t tell. He’s got the talent to be a big, big star for United.”
Crerand, who played 383 times for United and won two league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup, warned that expectations always have to be held back somewhat with young players.
“You can be up one minute and down the next in football,” he explained.
“He’s a very, very talented player and he’s got a football brain. If he’s as intelligent off the pitch as he is on it, he’ll be a big star, but more so than my day, you’ve got to be careful of the media. When you’re a big name in football, you can’t even go to the toilet on your own!
“Good pros in the squad will lead you on the right track and help you along the way. You need that, because anything that happens at Manchester United is in the newspapers all across the world.
“In my time, it was mainly restricted to Manchester, until George Best came on the scene at least.”
Best’s youthful brilliance did change that. The Fifth Beatle was a global superstar, and it’s only he and Norman Whiteside who boast a better record in their teenage years for United than Greenwood.
Expectations… they can be a dangerous thing, but Mason has 113 United appearances under his belt and has shown an ability to deal with the pressure. The question is, what comes next?
Best marked his 20th birthday with a league title, scoring nine times in 45 appearances as United won Division One in 1967. It would be in his 21st year that he really took off, United winning the European Cup and Georgie scoring 32 times.
As for Whiteside, the teenage sensation marked his 20th with an FA Cup final within a few days of his birthday, striking past Neville Southall to win United the match at Wembley. He became United captain not too long after, the club’s youngest since Duncan Edwards, and scored eight goals in the 1985/86 season.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is get carried away,” Crerand helpfully reminds us. “But he’s a sensible lad and a terrific talent.”