Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is certain Mason Greenwood will have “a very big career” at Manchester United – just as the manager is sure about the long-term benefits of taking the teenager out of the limelight at times.
Having got a taste of first-team football last season, the 18-year-old set tongues wagging during pre-season with some fine goals and promising displays that led to effusive praise from the United boss.
Solskjaer went onto describe Greenwood as one of the best finishers he has ever seen on the eve of his first senior goal against Astana – a superb September strike followed by another against Rochdale the following week.
The teenager had to wait until Thursday to add to that haul, showing composure and skill to put United on course for a comprehensive 3-0 win against Partizan Belgrade in the Europa League.
That was Greenwood’s first start in five weeks – a period in which he dropped down to play for the Under-21s in the EFL Trophy – as Solskjaer focuses on developing the teenage talent correctly.
“Mason is going to have a very big career, but sometimes is not the right time to play him,” the former United striker said.
“He knows why he hasn’t played as much. We’re taking our time with him.
“It’s been a difficult period. Anthony (Martial) has been away, to put all the weight on his shoulder wasn’t right either.
“I think we are finding the right balance between playing him, resting him and training him. He needs to learn the man’s game.
“He’s gone up from the Under-18s last year, now he’s training with the first team every day and you can’t just turn that switch on and off.
“You’ve got to perform every day if you are going to be accepted by a group like this.”
The last comment was striking as Greenwood has been given an elevated role due to the summer exits of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan.
Asked if he had not wanted to heap pressure on the teenager during Martial’s recent injury lay-off, Solskjaer said: “Not really.
“If he’d really stamped his authority in training every single day and been the best option, he would have played every game, but as a young boy you expect ups and downs and he’s had some downs. But I think he is on his way up again.
“You always get assessed on results now, but the DNA of this club – and it’s always been in our philosophy and my philosophy to give young players with the right attitude a chance and if that takes a couple of years for him to really, really come through, it’s worth it for us.
“I’m managing for Man United, I’m not managing for me.
“I am managing for the best way I think we can get the best out of Mason.”
Solskjaer acknowledged a comparison between the finishing of Greenwood and former United striker Robin Van Persie, as well as nodding to a personality as adaptable as his footwork.
“He is very composed as well with his finishing,” he said of Greenwood, who last month signed a new and improved contract until at least 2023.
“It is just what he does it is natural to him. Right foot, left foot – I don’t think he still knows which is the best one, which is very difficult for defenders to defend against. He’s doing his finishing practices.
“I can see it every day. The good thing is he can do it at Old Trafford in front of a full crowd or 62,000, he doesn’t get fazed by the occasion. He’s still composed.
“Whether that’s a game with his mates in the park or a cup final he will still finish the same or Premier League, hopefully.”
That positive, unruffled personality appears to have helped Greenwood shrug off being dropped to the Under-21s for the recent EFL Trophy match at Doncaster by scoring a late decider dedicated to his late grandmother.
“He scored a winner in that game against Doncaster, which always gives players confidence,” Solskjaer said ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Brighton.
“That was more important for him to play that game and 90 minutes to be ready for these games instead of being on the bench the day after against Chelsea.”
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted by Manchester United’s display of attacking quality and cutting edge as early progress was sealed to the Europa League knockout phase.
Partizan Belgrade proved tricky opposition in Serbia a fortnight ago, but United made light work of them on Thursday evening to reach the last 32 with two Group L games to spare.
United’s improved attack was key to the 3-0 victory at Old Trafford.
Having mustered just one shot on target across their previous two Europa League matches, they had seven against Partizan.
Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford all scored classy goals as Solskjaer’s men showed attacking bite.
“Very happy,” Solskjaer said. “That was the reason we played the three of them as well. We felt if we played a strong team and created chances, we needed players out there to take them.
“I am very pleased with all those finishes. All three goals were high class. Of course we should have had quite a few more as well, but the first one settles us down I think.
“Mason – great composure, keeper goes early so he just changes his mind so very happy with that one. Anthony – that was probably the skill of the night, that goal.
“And Marcus, I am very pleased he scores with his left foot because he’ll need more goals with his left foot because he comes in from that position quite often, so he can go inside and outside of the full-back.”
It was an impressive show of attacking strength from United, who displayed the fluency and edge too often missing from their play this term.
“This is a little bit of a template on how we want to play, definitely,” Solskjaer said.
“But of course it’s the opposition that allows you to play this way as well.
“No disrespect to Partizan, but they gave us spaces. Of course after we scored the first goal, they went forward.
“But that was pleasing for me, that we went forward, and needed the second and third because too many times we have been 1-0 up and haven’t gone for the second or got the second.
“But it’s learning, these boys are learning. Tonight will give them loads of pointers of how to play, how do we play when we’re performing well even though the opposition is not the same as in the Premier League it was still good principles.”
The only negatives on Thursday appeared to be knocks sustained by Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire.
Midfielder McTominay told the PA news agency he “should be fine” for Sunday’s match against Brighton after picking up a foot complaint, while defender Maguire appears fine having completed the match despite a second-half issue.
“I think Harry will be OK,” Solskjaer said. “He finished the game anyway. Scott is more of a concern, so let’s see how he recovers in the next few days.”
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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a satisfied man after his side registered an emphatic 3-0 win over Partizan Belgrade in an UEFA Europa League group-stage clash at Old Trafford.
United’s third win in the competition helped them clinch qualification to the knock-out stage with two group games still to spare. The win was carved out after goals from Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
While United have struggled in the Premier League with four losses in 11 games, Solskjaer was delighted with their showing against Partizan and believes that the win can become a template for the future.
The Man United boss took the decision to field an attacking forward line with the trio reposing his faith with three goals. See what else the Norwegian had to say about his side’s attacking display on the night in the video posted above.