The prolific young striker netted a stunning hat-trick against Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup and made the first-team squad for the defeat to Valencia
Manchester United might be struggling to make any kind of impact at senior level following their difficult start to the 2018-19 campaign, but there are multiple positives to be taken from their form at youth level this season.
Ricky Sbragia’s Under-23s are top of Division 2 in Premier League 2 thanks to a 1-0 win over Reading, while Neil Ryan’s Under-18s have won seven of their 10 matches and stand five points behind Everton in the North Group.
They also dumped Chelsea out of the FA Youth Cup – the first time the Blues have been beaten in the competition since, quite incredibly, 2013 – with Mason Greenwood having scored a hat-trick in the 4-3 win.
Executive vice-chair Ed Woodward made a point of speaking about the club’s continued focus on youth going forward when addressing the club’s investors recently, and there are plenty of candidates to follow names such as Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Scott McTominay into the first-team squad.
Goal continues to keep across developments across the youth levels, and there is one young man in particular who keeps breaking down barriers in the United system.
Striker Mason Greenwood continues to be a revelation, having netted 22 goals in 19 outings across the various youth and reserve levels at the club this season.
Having spent the last couple of years blazing a trail through the Under-16 and Under-18 age groups, Greenwood was always likely to get an early call into the reserve setup.
And that happened in October when, in the month of his 17th birthday, the young forward was selected by Sbragia for the Under-23s trip to Wolves.
It was no real surprise given Greenwood’s recent form, with a brace having been netted by the front man in the Under-18s’ 7-0 win at Sunderland six days earlier and then another cool strike being bagged in the Under-19s’ 4-1 home win against Juventus in the UEFA Youth League.
Greenwood adapted quickly to reserve level, scoring early in the second half of his debut at Molineux after taking a short Angel Gomes pass and drilling low past the goalkeeper.
United would go onto lose the game 2-1, and there was another reverse in Greenwood’s home bow against Newcastle next time out. But the phenomenal progress of the two-footed striker must not be underestimated.
Having scored twice more in the Under-18s’ Premier League Cup win at Norwich in early November, Greenwood went into the international break with a tally of 17 goals in 15 appearances across all age groups this season.
He also now has the added experience of a top-level European away day under his belt having played off the left for Nicky Butt’s Under-19s in their 2-2 draw at Juventus.
Aidan Barlow was United’s standout star in Turin, causing the Bianconeri plenty of problems with his bursts from midfield and keeping his cool to score the second-half equaliser from the penalty spot which secured the Reds a point.
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United sealed top spot in Group H with a thumping 6-2 victory over Young Boys at home, and once more Greenwood was to the fore, scoring a double to take his goal tally in the Youth League to five in five games – plus an assist to boot.
And his performances earned recognition from Jose Mourinho recently, with Greenwood named on the bench for the 2-1 defeat to Valencia in United’s final Champions League group game.
He made further headlines with his incredible hat-trick in the 4-3 FA Youth Cup win over Chelsea, as the Red Devils dumped the Blues – who have won the last five FA Youth Cups in a row – out of the competition at the third-round stage.