Monday 13 May 2019

Mason Greenwood offers hope for the future as United aim to rebuild

Manchester United's final day defeat to Cardiff brought down the curtain on a dreadful season at Old Trafford. The 2018-19 campaign ended as it began - with the club in a mess, the players not bothered and disinterested and us fans feeling as disconnected from our club as ever. Granted we had nothing to play for and our 53rd match of the season resembled little more than a glorified expedition tie. That said, it would have been nice to give us something to cheer and to send us into the two-month hiatus on a high. We can enjoy the break now and put the stresses of this season to one side. Only 89 days until we go again...

 If there's anything positive to come out of a shocking loss to the Championship-bound Bluebirds, it's that it will be the last time a good few of these players ever pull on the iconic red shirt. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia are definitely going, but more are sure to follow. Paul Pogba and David de Gea have probably had their United swansongs whilst the future of many others - the likes of Messrs Lukaku, Matic, Sanchez and Mata el al - remain shrouded in uncertainty. Speaking of the future, if there is any crumb of comfort to be taken from a season that started badly, peaked in Paris and then ended in chaos, it's that United's revered Academy looks in as good a shape as ever.

At 17 years and 223 days, Mason Greenwood became the youngest player to start a league game for United, and he more than showed his frightening promise as the sole ray of sunshine in a gloomy United performance. Together with Angel Gomes, one year his senior, the two homegrown talents outshone many of their more experienced and illustrious colleagues. Gomes only played the last quarter of the tie but did more in his brief cameo than most of this shower managed in the preceding 74 minutes. Players such as Greenwood, Gomes, Tahith Chong, Scott McTominay and James Garner should be central to our rebuild.

As the Reds collective form has plummeted, so has Marcus Rashford's. Devoid of any confidence, his decision making, composure and intelligenceehas simply fallen off a cliff. But Rashford's loss is Greenwood's gain. He can be proud of his full debut having had a stunning season in the Reserve side, with 26 goals and eight assists in 30 games at second tier level. Thrown into the first-team fray in the midst of an injury crisis, he made his senior bow at the Parc des Princes and went down in the annals as our youngest ever player in the Champions League era, at 17 years and 156 days. A league debut off the bench at Arsenal quickly followed as his devastating form at youth level was rewarded with a long awaited senior breakthrough. Touted for a while now as our next big thing, this kid has all the attributes to be something special. He was responsible for most of our best moments against the Bluebirds, hitting the post and keeping Cardiff stopper Neil Etheridge busy.

If you want to be hyper critical, then he probably should have tucked one of his chances away but he was unlucky and was the best player on the pitch by a distance among those in Red. He's got to be promoted to the senior ranks for next season in the same way that Rashford was.

For one so young, Greenwood belies his tender years and can show his team-mates the way when it comes to playing for the shirt with pride, passion and unstinting honour.

Not for the first time, we're looking to United's next generation to take us forward.

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