The England international has just one Premier League goal this season but his all-round game was impressive in Sunday’s 1-0 win over West Ham
As Lukasz Fabiankski touched Mason Greenwood’s powerful shot onto the post in the 35th minute of Manchester United’s 1-0 win over West Ham on Sunday, you just knew it would not be the teenager’s night.
Last season, Greenwood’s effort would likely have found the bottom corner of the Irons’ net, so unerring was his finishing at times.
But in 2020-21, the youngster’s goal-scoring touch has deserted him somewhat. He has just one Premier League goal this term, and only four in all competitions.
That is a statistic that Greenwood will be looking to improve upon in the campaign’s final months, particularly since an opportunity to prove himself as a central striker looks to be emerging.
It is in that position he started here at Old Trafford, and it was Greenwood who provided United with much of their attacking thrust as they aimed to break down a West Ham side that David Moyes had set up to frustrate their hosts.
Greenwood had five shots on the night – the most of any player on the pitch – and hit the woodwork in either half as the Red Devils struggled to break down their visitors from east London.
It is felt that Greenwood’s future will see him play more and more as a No.9 as he gets older and stronger, but there is potentially an opening right now if he can prove himself in the role.
Anthony Martial has failed to live up to expectations this season, scoring just four goals in 17 Premier League starts, and Greenwood can certainly add more dynamism than the France international to United’s attack.
The other alternative is a far more traditional No.9 in the shape of Edinson Cavani, who for much of the season had looked like the missing piece for United inside the penalty area.
However, with the ex-Paris Saint-Germain man apparently unhappy in England and keen to move on, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks set for a summer where he will again have to consider his options up front.
The Norwegian can either again go into the market to find a world-class striker, or alternatively head into 2021-22 with just Martial and Greenwood fighting it out for a starting berth.
With United facing budget constraints amid the pandemic, they can only really afford to spend big in one position, and until the revelations from Cavani’s father it was always felt that money would be used on a centre-back.
But with the Uruguay international now potentially set to leave, and with United having kepr four consecutive Premier League clean sheets, their priorities in the market could yet shift.
That is, unless, Greenwood can show himself to be the answer, and there were both good and bad signs in his display against West Ham.
With Moyes’ team offering little space for United to counterattack, Greenwood found himself drifting over to the right-hand side in a bid to find pockets of room, something which regularly infuriated Solskjaer on the sidelines.
The Norwegian could be heard shouting “Mason, get in there!” from one particular corner as Greenwood headed for the byline rather than a striker’s natural home at the heart of the penalty area, though that is not to say that he was not effective when playing from wide.
A delicious cross in the first half should have been headed home by the returning Marcus Rashford, while a similar driving run down the flank led to the winning goal after the break, with Vladimir Coufal’s clearance at the back post from Greenwood’s ball in directly followed by Craig Dawson heading Bruno Fernandes’ corner into his own net.
Manchester United’s Man of the Match
Luke Shaw was named Manchester United’s Man of the Match for the second consecutive Premier League game, after helping the Reds beat West Ham United 1-0 on Sunday.
The in-form left-back, who was also declared United’s star performer in the 2-0 win over Manchester City, picked up the largest share of the votes in our Official App following the victory against David Moyes’ high-flying Hammers.
Shaw showed off both sides of his game, demonstrating a great understanding with Marcus Rashford when attacking on the left flank but also getting back to perform the routine aspects of his role as the visitors tried in vain to find an equaliser.
‘We like to make it hard for ourselves!’ – Solskjaer says confidence will come for Manchester United after West Ham win
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked that Manchester United like to make games harder for themselves after they snatched a slender victory against West Ham at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Red Devils came away with the three points in a top-four tussle thanks to Liam Dawson’s own goal off Scott McTominay’s header early into the second half, to lift them back into second above Leicester at the expense of old manager David Moyes.
With a pair of crunch clash knockout games to come in the next week – including a Europa League last-16 second leg with Milan and a FA Cup quarter-final tie with the Foxes – Solskjaer admitted that he had hoped to claim a bigger margin of victory but was nevertheless pleased with his side’s result.
What has Solskjaer said?
“As expected, they are always going to make it hard for you,” the Norwegian told Sky Sports after the game. “We could have been more comfortable towards the end as we had a few decent chances to finish it off. We like to make it hard for ourselves!
“It’s about not giving them turnovers all the time. In the first 15 minutes, we gave the ball away every time we attacked. You have to not open up stupidly as you know [West Ham] are a threat on the counter-attack so we kept composed and organised.
“We created massive opportunities but the final pass or shot wasn’t good enough. We could have [scored] two or three easily. But then it could have ended up in our net at the end as they are a threat.
“We know West Ham are challenging to get in the top four so it was a big result and we kept a clean sheet again. The experience and confidence will come. [It’s a] big week – Europa League and FA Cup – so we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully [we’ll] get a few players back and put a good performance in.”
The bigger picture
With Manchester City’s win over Fulham this weekend, the title race is all but over for United, who nevertheless are on course to nab a second-place finish.
But having missed out on a shot at the Carabao Cup final against Pep Guardiola’s side earlier this year, they will be even more driven to compete for remaining silverware at home and abroad.