Monday, 13 July 2020

Match preview: Man Utd v Southampton

Manchester United face a Monday night fixture for the first time in nearly five months as in-form Southampton visit Old Trafford for the Reds penultimate home fixture.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to name an unchanged line up for the fifth game in succession - something that has not happened since 1993 and the inaugural Premier League season.

The Reds are unbeaten in seventeen games across all competitions and on Thursday became the first team ever to win four in a row by a margin of three goals or more - after racking up wins over Sheffield United, Brighton, Bournemouth and Aston Villa. United will move into third place with victory but face a difficult test against a Southampton side arriving in M16 in fine fettle.

Ralph Hassenhuttl's Saints have enjoyed a sharp upward trajectory since that dark October night that saw the south coast club on the receiving end of a record-equalling 9-0 defeat to Leicester. The team looked in relegation trouble for much of the early weeks of the season but a run of six wins in nine at the turn of the year helped pull Hassenhuttl's team clear of trouble.
The Southampton hierarchy stuck by the Austrian manager and have been rewarded with an impressive turnaround, with Saints beating Manchester City last time out and boasting a fine recent record at Old Trafford - avoiding defeat in four of their last visits (two wins and two draws). The Saints have done well since the Restart, claiming ten points from their first five games back, beating struggling duo Norwich and Watford before their backs-to-the wall victory over deposed champions Manchester City.

The battle for Champions League qualification is firmly in United's hands with four games left. Win these four 'cup finals' and the Reds will finish in that third spot - a superb return from Solskjaer's first full season in charge. Especially when you consider that Leicester sat 14 points ahead of United after 24 games and the Reds have spent much of the season on the fringes of the top four. Results went our way over the weekend, with Chelsea losing at Sheffield United and Leicester going down to a shock 4-1 thrashing at struggling Bournemouth to open the door for Solskjaer's in-form men.

Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are the only absentees for United, but Southampton are without injured trio Moussa Djenepo (calf), Sofiane Boufal (thigh) and Yan Valery. The visitors will hope to have Jannik Vestergaard (muscle) available for selection again.
Saints striker Danny Ings scored his 19th league goal of the campaign last time out and the English net-buster is on the verge of becoming only the third Southampton player to reach the 20-goal mark in a Premier League season, after legends Matt Le Tissier and James Beattie.

Ole said: "There's so many things you have to consider when you manage a team, we've got players here champing at the bit and those that are in the rhythm.
"I have a lot of decisions to make, but the players help by playing and performing well. If we don't get too many injuries, there's no reason to change much when you're going well.
"There is a lot of planning to do - when do we start the league? It depends on so many factors, how we do in Europe for example. So we can't really decide on the training programme. There are so many small decisions that can make a big difference, sometimes these are out of your hands so you always need a plan for different scenarios.
"Southampton is a very fine football club with a strong tradition. I've got huge respect for the job Ralph has done there, you know what he's doing and he deserves a lot of credit for turning it round there. The way they play is direct, it's high energy, and hard working so we know what we're up against and it will be a difficult one for us."

United's home tie with Southampton is our penultimate home game of the 2019-20 and kicks off at 8pm, live on Sky Sports
Form guide: United D W W W W W Southampton L W L W W D
Match odds: United 7/2 Draw 9/2 Southampton 8/1
Referee: Chris Kavanagh takes charge of his first ever game at Old Trafford

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Match report: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd

Paul Pogba scored his first goal of the season as Manchester United cruised to victory over struggling Aston Villa and moved to within a point of the Premier League's top four.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's in-form Reds surged to a fifth win in six games to keep up the pressure on Leicester and Chelsea with four games remaining, extending our stunning unbeaten run to a record-threatening 17 games.  United visit the King Power on the final day in what could be a straight shootout for the final place in Champions League.

The tie brought United face-to-face with potential new employee Jack Grealish, linked with a summer move to Old Trafford after a string of impressive performances in a poor season for the west Midlands side. The result left Grealish and co. in desperate trouble at the foot of the table, four points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Watford and in nineteenth place with matches against Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and relegation rivals West Ham to come. Relegation and an immediate return to the second tier would certainly make United's potential pursuit of Grealish more palatable and less costly.

It was Villa's captain and talismanic figurehead whom had the first opening of the game, when he failed to hit the target with an angled effort from close range after being played in by John McGinn.
Anwar El Ghazi headed wide and Douglas Luiz also went close to an opener when he flashed a shot wide having burst clear.
Mahmoud Trezeguet cannoned a shot off the outside of the post but United repelled the quick-starting hosts and soon gained control when Bruno Fernandes spun Ezri Konsa but was brought down as he shaped to shoot. After a brief VAR check, referee Jonathan Moss upheld the decision and Fernandes was spot on again for his eighth goal since joining the club in January.

Pepe Reina saved well from Anthony Martial, and the former Liverpool keeper was called into action again with a full-length stop to deny Mason Greenwood.
Fernandes headed over the bar and Pogba then had an effort saved by the busy Reina but, where those two had failed, Greenwood showed his more senior colleagues how it's done.
The Reds devastating, clinical and free-flowing attack dovetailed again as Pogba found his compatriot Martial and he in turn picked out Greenwood. The most exciting young talent in world football latched on to the pass and thumped home a trademark finish in first half stoppage time to effectively end the game as a contest.

Aaron Wan - Bissaka missed a golden opening for his first United goal when he nodded wide from point blank range after Marcus Rashford had picked him out. Rashford himself then had another strike chalked out for offside, but the third goal was not long in coming as United's superiority was rubber stamped.  Pogba stroked home a curler- our 100th of the season - two minutes shy of the hour mark for his first goal since returning from a long injury lay off.
Martial rattled the bar, substitute Fred should have done better and our no.10 again went close.

In a unique slice of history, the team managed something not even Sir Alex Ferguson's vintage ever achieved, becoming the first team in history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin or more.

Overall team performance: 7/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Mason Greenwood.

Match preview: Aston Villa vs Man Utd - A key game at both ends of the table

Jack Grealish will come face-to-face with his potential new employers with time and games running out for the Villa captain to spark a late run to Premier League survival.

Villa Park is traditionally a happy hunting ground for Manchester United. Aside from numerous FA Cup semi final wins, we haven't lost at the west Midlands venue since 1995, when John Major was Prime Minister - a run of 20 consecutive games without defeat there. Unsurprisingly given that stat, it is the Premier League away ground where United have most victories to their name.

Dean Smith's side are firmly entrenched in the relegation mire, four points adrift of safety and third from bottom, but with a game in hand on the sides above them. Precariously placed with the fight for survival set to go to the wire, Villa's final day clash with David Moyes West Ham could go a long way to deciding whether they remain at England's top table or immediately return to the second tier after only one season.

At the other end of the table, United's top four destiny sits in our hands, one point off faltering Leicester, in the knowledge that five wins from the remaining games would be enough to guarantee  that coveted fourth spot, perhaps even third should Chelsea slip in tough looking games against Liverpool and Wolves. Chelsea moved into third with victory over capital rivals Crystal Palace on Tuesday, with Brendan Rodgers side claiming a late point at Arsenal the same evening. United's hopes were lifted by that result and given a further boon through Sheffield United's victory over Wolves 24 hours later.

With Manchester City's fate and potential ban to be announced next week, fifth place also might be enough to qualify for the Champions League - United currently occupy that position but can't rely on the schadenfreude of others to get back amongst Europe's elite. The Reds are the country's form side, unbeaten in sixteen games, red hot, rampant and scoring goals for fun. They will be wary of Villa's threat, though, with the strugglers have picked up an unlikely point at Old Trafford in December, with a moment of magic from Grealish in a 2-2 draw.

There is no doubt that Grealish - linked heavily with a summer move to United - is the talismanic figurehead of the west Midlands side. In a season of struggle, the captain has stood out as a rose amongst thorns. In a campaign where no Villa player has reached double figures for goals, Grealish has shone in that area, too, currently heading their scoring charts with nine.
That in itself tells you everything you need to know about his side's plight, though, as does the fact they've conceded 62 goals - only bottom club Norwich have surpassed that tally.

In short, not scoring enoug
h and conceding a hatful, a recipe for disaster for any team and music to the ears of United's 55-goal front three, fresh from a five star showing against another relegation threatened side, AFC Bournemouth, last time out.

Former Villa man Axel Tuanzebe is sidelined along with defensive cohort Phil Jones. Victor Lindelof is also a doubt through a back problem, but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the option of naming an unchanged side for the fourth game running should Lindelof be fit. Eric Bailly would deputise in the Swede's possible absence, but there are no new injury concerns. Luke Shaw has started every match of the Reds unbeaten run, and Nemanja Matic could be in line for a rest despite his impressive form of late.
Talisman Grealish and centre-back Tyrone Mings both picked up knocks in the defeat at Anfield, but both are expected to feature for Smith's side. Tom Heaton, Matt Targett and Wesley are all sidelined, with defensive duo Frederic Guilbert (ankle) and Bjorn Engels (knee) not having played since the restart. Ex-Liverpool stopper Pepe Reina will continue to deputise for the injured Heaton, with Keinan Davis likely tasked with leading the line on his own for Villa.

Solskjaer said: "Villa have shown since lockdown that they're no pushovers, they can hold their own. The games they've had have been tight, there are some good players in their team, so we know we have to be ready for that. They have worked on their shape, and their counter-attacks are powerful, they spring quickly and set plays, good deliveries and first contact players, so we're expecting a very tough test going there.
On the top four, the boss added: "It's a cliche, but we can only focus on one game at a time. We just focus on this one, then the next one and the one after that. If we win all of them, which will be tough, then we are in the top four. We cannot rely on help from anyone else, we just have to do it for ourselves. That's to grow as a team and know that going into next season we can put a different challenge to other teams in front of us."

United's trip to Villa is the final tie of Matchweek 34, and kicks off at 8.15pm live on Sky Sports.

Form guide: Aston Villa L D L D L L Man Utd W D W W W W
Match odds: Aston Villa 9/1 Draw 9/2 Man Utd 2/5 (Paddy Power)
Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Yorkshire)

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Martial, Mason and Marcus - the race for Manchester United's Golden Boot

The tagline for Manchester United's 2011-title winning vintage? As the Courteeners once sang: Not Nineteen Forever. That was, of course, in reference to United's league win that season and nineteen would become twenty two seasons on as United's dominance of the English domestic game began to dwindle but still delivered the riches of, to date, our last two Pr
emier League coronations.

But the 2010-11 season was notable for more than just that title. It was, up until Saturday, the last time we had two players hit the 20-goal mark in a single season. Of course, team honours are more important and memorable that merely the footnote of top scorer, but to have two players fighting for the unofficial honour of the club's Golden Boot keeps the competitive edge going amongst the players. It shows progress, it shows we don't just rely on one man to get all the goals and it's evidence, if it were needed, of a young, lively and deadly strikeforce growing and maturing before our eyes. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have had their best campaigns in front of goal for United, whilst 18-year-old Mason Greenwood has burst on to the scene as an emerging generational talent, hitting 14 in his debut season in the senior side.

Robin van Persie hit 30 in 2012-13, Zlatan netted 28 in his solitary season at Old Trafford and Romelu Lukaku, for all his detractors, managed one fewer as the focal point of Jose Mourinho's runners up two seasons ago. B
ut not since the Dimitar Berbatov/Javier Hernandez double act have United had two men with more than 18 goals - until now, that is. In fact, United's prolific, red hot triumvirate have outscored Liverpool's much-vaunted front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane - a trio widely considered as the best in world football. Those three have got 51 between them, but Rashford, Greenwood and Martial (aka Marcus, Mason and Martial) have plundered 55. The former trio have Premier League winners medal around their necks so you get the feeling they won't really care, but nevertheless, it's been long overdue for us to have three players pushing their way to prominence amongst Europe's elite. If you're consistently going to challenge for the biggest Premier League and Champions League prizes, you need someone - preferably a pair - 20, 25, 30 goals a season.

Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with some of United's other greatest attacking trios, but that's unfair on these three at this stage. For context, they still have a long way to go to mix it with the very best from our recent past. Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bagged 29, 24 and 18 respectively for a combined total of 71 in the Treble-winning season of 1998-99. The 2008-Double winning side went one better still, with Cristiano Ronaldo smashing a breathtaking 42 goals, in tandem with Wayne Rooney (18) and Carlos Tevez (19) - 79 between them. That was equalled in 2002-03, another title-winning term, by 44 from Ruud van Nistelrooy, Scholes with 20 and Solskjaer (15). The following season, Ronaldo (26), Rooney (20), Berbatov (14) and Tevez (15), plundered 75 as a quartet, firing United to another title, League Cup success and the Champions League final again for a second consecutive season.

 All three are very young and will only improve. Both Rashford and Martial have struggled for consistency, but that comes with the territory for players of their age and both will only improve. The gamble to sell Romelu Lukaku - a man who looked a poor fit for the club but also a player with a proven goalscoring record at this level - looked questionable. Now, almost a year on, it's a decision that has rapidly looked an inspired one.

The best thing of all? Two of them are youth team graduates from the Academy, with only Martial costing a fee. Rashford had shot out in front as United's leading marksman with 19 goals from 31 games in United colours before being sidelined by a back injury in January. That appeared to have ended Rashford's season only for the lockdown to extend the season and enable him to return to the fold. Scoring a penalty against Bournemouth at the weekend, Rashford reached the 20-goal mark for the first time ever - comfortably eclipsing his previous highest scoring season at the club (13 across both of the last two campaigns). The win over Bournemouth marked the third time since Christmas the trio had all scored in a Premier League game, with one of the three scoring twice on each occasion. To underline the prolific prowess of the three-pronged attack, United have scored five times or more (scoring six once) on four occasions in the last sixteen games. We only did that once in the previous 367 games since Sir Alex's last game in charge.

Martial took up the mantle through the middle in the absence of the England man, and has also been able to add an end product to his game, previously conspicuous by its absence.
The mercurial and unpredictable Frenchman, a relative veteran at 24, also took his tally to 20 against the Cherries, matching his younger colleague's tally with a goal of the season contender to add to his hat-trick in the win over Sheffield United. This, too, has been Martial's best-ever scoring season at Old Trafford, reaching the landmark for the first time since his arrival at the club - although he was top scorer in his debut season, hitting 17 despite playing in a static, stale and soporific side under Louis van Gaal in 2015-16. 

The two are holding their own personal duel to end the season as top scorer, propelling United into the top four or even top three in the process. Greenwood, too, has enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough campaign, finding the net on a regular basis and catching the eye with his composure and clinical nature - drawing comparisons to van Persie, the last man to hit 30 goals in a season for United.

The Reds could still have another eleven matches to play in 2019-20 - five league games, the FA Cup semi final and final (let's just say we beat Chelsea) and four in the Europa League mini tournament (again, we're hypothetically saying United make the final). With Messrs Martial, Mason and Marcus on 55 between them and Rashford and Martial on 20 each, the race for Manchester United's Golden Boot is only just hotting up.

Monday, 6 July 2020

United's Red Arrows pass Bournemouth test with flying colours

The form guide could not have made for more contrasting reading as Manchester United welcomed AFC Bournemouth to Old Trafford for a league game with ramifications at both ends of the table.
United - brimming with confidence. and momentum - unbeaten in sixteen and on an undoubted upward trajectory. Eddie Howe's men on a torrid run of one win in nine, struggling for any kind of form and starting down the barrel of a return to the Championship. Bournemouth had actually beaten United in the return fixture, but those were very different days and, this time, surely there was only one winner.

But, as we all know, form means very little in football. Just ask Burnley, who rocked up at Old Trafford in January and left United a deep shade of claret after their first win on our turf in 57 years - leaving a club on its knee and a manager clinging to his dream job for dear life. Back then, you'd have got long odds on that not only being the last time we tasted defeat but also on us making any kind of inroads towards not just the much coveted fourth spot, but 3rd too.

Things had been ticking along almost too well since United's post-lockdown resumption. A creditable point at Spurs was followed by convincing wins over Sheffield United and Brighton and not-quite-so comfortable cup win at Norwich with United taken to extra-time.

Things are never too easy, so when Junior Stanislas gave Bournemouth - struggling, relegation-threatened and out of form Bournemouth - a shock lead at Old Trafford, this was a test of United's mettle.
Here we had a familiar feeling of deja vu, a lowly, plucky underdog fighting for their lives turning up at Old Trafford and failing to read the script. Ahead and with new found belief, Bournemouth had something to defend. The plan: setting up in a familiar low block and battening down the hatches in anticipation of a Red siege. For a club that have proved very definition of defying the odds - with the scalp of United already under their belts - it was exactly what they would have wanted.A year ago, even six months ago perhaps, a 0-1 deficit to rank, relegation battling outsiders - even with 75 minutes left - would have spelt catastrophe.

All too often, United have looked clueless when it comes to breaking down teams with eleven men behind the ball, sides camped in their own 18 yard box. Heads drop, minds become shrouded and antipathy grows as United feebly try to break the lines by painstakingly passing up blind alleys, taking pot shots  from distance and playing at a snail's pace, passing two yards sideways and backwards with soporific and statuesque movement. Repeat ad nauseum. It has been our Achilles heel.

Yet not this time, not for this reborn, revitalised, Manchester United 2.0. It never even entered my head that we'd fail in this recovery mission. Instead of falling into a slumber, the beast was merely reawakened as United rose to the challenge rather than wilting in its face. Where before there may have been anxiety, panic and dread, there was only a renewed sense of confidence and belief. Two words flashed through my head as Stanislas slotted beyond David de Gea. Bury them.  Isn't it great that we're going into matches feeling like this, even when things do not go to plan and the applecart is threatened with an upset.
Watching the game with my United supporting mate, I half jokingly said we'd be 2-1 ahead by half-time. I was wrong. We were 3-1 up by then. It took only 14 minutes to reach parity, then another six minutes to turn water into wine. Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford restored normal service before Anthony Martial's stunner turned the tables further and seemingly did, indeed, bury them.

Josh King had other ideas and again asked the question of this United team. Would we cave in, would we go under and would heads drop? The former Reds man made it 3-2 with a penalty to push the Cherries back to within touching distance. The kill-them-off mantra reapplied. Given our reaction to Bournemouth's opening goal, it shouldn't have surprised anyone that United set about their task immediately. Arnaut Danjama could have further tested resolve had he not been offside, but the close call was swotted away and failed to shrink United's violets, motivate them to close ranks, shut down the game and allow the increasingly confident Cherries a route back in. That's what the moribund sides of Messrs Mourinho and van Gaal may have done.
Rather, it drove the Reds to step up again. There was only another six minutes before Greenwood's second strike, this time with his 'weaker' right foot, restoring the two-goal advantage. Like Perrie Edwards and Keira Knightley, that beauty was soon followed by another, Bruno's free-kick bringing up United's five goal haul for the first time in the league since Solskjaer's managerial debut.

There was still no let up as the Red Arrows continued to soar forward, painting pretty patterns, constantly changing formations and cutting a swathe through Bournemouth's increasingly soft and increasingly shapeless centre.
We could have ended up winning 6 or 7-2 such was our eventual superiority, but the point is United are no longer hermit crabs, no longer the cannon fodder that we were under Mourinho and van Gaal. This side don't go into their shells after taking a lead. There's no fear, no nervousness in the manner the Dutchman and the Portuguese's conditioning evoked. Now, United are red hot, rampaging and like the bull in the proverbial china shop.

He's magic, Bruno, our best midfielder since Paul Scholes!!

Any strong, seaworthy vessel needs a captain, a leader, and a capable hand on the tiller to steady the literal ship and guide his crew through the darkest of nights and the stormiest of seas.

158 days ago, the vessel named HMS Manchester United found that man. The man, like his illustrious predecessor, arriving from Portugal - and, like another illustrious predecessor, wearing the no.18 shirt. Many would have baulked at the challenge, at the task of steering this magnificent vessel away from the rip tides, away from the shark-infested waters and set a craft previously in danger of being lost to the ocean back on an even keel.

Not Bruno Fernandes. Here was a man who liked a challenge, a man who saw Manchester United's current plight as a personal insult. Not for the first time, someone came from Sporting Lisbon to Old Trafford and - metaphorically - set the place on fire. Fernandes, like the conductor of an orchestra, struck a chord with fans and got everyone singing from the same hymnbook. Not for him was there a gradual, drip-feeding settling in period - more an almighty din, an omnipotent and omnipresent higher power, a man to make an entire football club dance to his tune, bend opponents to his will and a man with the Midas touch as a talismanic figurehead.

Despite playing only 13 games since his arrival, and seeing big name players such as Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Memphis Depay fail to make an impression before him, Fernandes is already our best post Sir-Alex signing. January signings traditionally take time to settle, but Fernandes has taken to his task like a duck to water, earning the February Player of the Month award and  directly contributing to more goals than games played. As the stakes have got higher with United chasing the top four and a potential cup double, Fernandes influential importance has only grown. We've needed a player like this for years.

It's not just his off-the-charts ability but his elite mentality and attitude. Fernandes demands nothing less than 100% from those around him, he's a born winner, a true leader and has already become the string pulling heartbeat and the heart and soul of Manchester United. It's difficult to describe exactly how good Fernandes has been, but not since Eric Cantona has a foreign import made such a thrilling and pivotal difference to the fortunes of an entire football club.

The number 18 shirt is an iconic one at Manchester United, perhaps just as much as our revered, much-vaulted number seven. The King himself, of course, wore that number, but the number 18 is befitting for Bruno, having been worn by club legend Paul Scholes. Scholes was undoubtedly one of United's greatest-ever players, playing over 700 games having risen through the ranks as one of Fergie's Fledglings to become one the finest exponents of his craft the game has ever seen.
When Zinedine Zidane was asked how it felt to be the best midfielder in the world, his reply? Ask Paul Scholes.

There was nothing Scholesy couldn't do - a complete player who simply had everything. He could dictate the play from deep, he could score, he was strong, his range of passing was simply magnificent and he had opponents on strings. A player synonymous with  the zenith of United's golden, glittering era, Scholes is widely regarded as one of the best the Premier League and the planet has ever seen. Certainly, he walks into any discussion when it comes to picking an all top top flight XI. Michael Carrick has perhaps been the closest we've seen to Scholes since. The two are vastly contrasting players, with Carrick's Rolls Royce style the string-pulling heartbeat of United for more than a decade. Whereas Scholes would leave his foot in - literally - Carrick seemed to glide through games and the two gave United the perfect balance in the engine room.

Scholes ran the show as United's number 18 for the best part of 20 years, and - in Fernandes - United have a player set to finally follow in those illustrious footsteps, bridging the gap from one generation to another.  Fernandes is Scholes 2.0, the Messiah re-incarnated. Ashley Young may have been a significant downgrade having taken the legendary shirt from the diminutive, flame-haired lad from Salford, but Fernandes, even if he retires tomorrow, will have done the shirt justice. There's a case to be had that Fernandes is the best we've had since Scholes.

The vessel named HMS Manchester United is fit for purpose again, and headed for calmer, tranquil, more peaceful seas this time around.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Mason Greenwood a generational talent with a golden future

The 2019-20 season will be remembered as a campaign like no other. The unthinkable finally happened for the first time in three decades, with a numbing sense of inevitability. The coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines, took a deadly hold and forced the entire world into a three-month long lockdown. The campaign will finish only a few days before the next one should have started.

Away from football, Britain finally left the EU after three years of wrangling, space travel was revolutionised, we saw NBA legend Kobe Bryant's tragic death and the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. 
We also witnessed the start of something special, the emergence of Manchester United's next brightest young thing. An 18-year-old with the world at both of his lethal, lightning quick feet - fresh from the Carrington conveyor belt - burst onto the scene and catapulted himself into the national spotlight.

2019-20 was the season in which Mason Greenwood did not just turn up and knock on the door but ran up to it, smashed that door clean off its hinges and charged straight through. In recent times, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams have all broken into the senior side, keeping up United's rich tradition of a pathway from schoolboy Red to first team stardom. But Greenwood could perhaps be the best Academy graduate since the Class of 92, so good is he. 

Still only 18, Greenwood has hit 14 goals in his debut, breakthrough season at Old Trafford, drawing comparisons with legendary United striker Robin van Persie with his technique, method of shooting, movement and body shape. The eye for goal, the power, the instinct and his blistering pace. Its as if RvP has been re-incarnated in the form of our number 26. Not since Cristiano Ronaldo has an 18 year old seemed so instantly at home and at ease in the Red of Manchester United. 

What seems so special about this lad is the confidence and natural ability he has. Time and again, he shows he's not afraid to take on his man, even if it means losing the ball. The way in which he shifts his body, turns and takes players out of the game is mesmerising in a manner that's hard to describe. 

In Greenwood, United have discovered a star - a gold, 24-carat, diamond-encrusted, generational talent and if he carries on with his upward trajectory he truly will be a world superstar. That has been said many times before, but the youngster has already produced some stunning performances and it's difficult not to get carried away with how high his ceiling could be.

When Greenwood scored his first United goal against Astana back in September, it justified Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's decision to allow the hapless duo of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to leave. It has taken Greenwood time to become a first-team regular, with five of his seven league starts having come since February. Scoring eight goals - one every 115 minutes - only three players (Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney), have managed that before turning 18. Greenwood, not 19 until October, has outscored team-mate Rashford at the same stage of his career.  
In a week when Dortmund set their price for right flank heir apparent Jadon Sancho, it begged the question: do we even need him with Greenwood in the finest, free-scoring form of his young career. Of course Sancho is one of the brightest young stars in Europe and every team should be involved in a clamour for his services, but Greenwood's emergence has raised difficult questions for the United hierarchy. Already capped by England at Under 21 level, Gareth Southgate can't have failed to notice the hottest 18-year-old prospect in the land. Imagine the 2022 World Cup with Sancho, Greenwood, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka in tandem... 

Sometimes, you can just tell that a young player has 'got it' - whatever 'it' is. Cast your minds back to the last day of the 2018-19 campaign, a season that ended in ignominy for United with defeat at the hands of Championship-bound Cardiff. Whilst it was an embarrassing end to a poor season for the club, Greenwood became the club's youngest ever starter with a full debut against the Bluebirds and proved the only bright spark, coming closest to scoring and running more than anyone else in Red. He looked like he was going to make something happen every time he got the ball, and stood out like a sore thumb. 

His two goals against Bournemouth came at a time when United needed them most, and added to his growing collection of belters. In the mould of one of the Premier League's deadliest ever Dutchmen, Greenwood and the manner of a certain teenaged tyro by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United's future is in safe hands.