Football Features

Mason “the Mancunian Matador” Greenwood makes the difference as Manchester United come from behind to beat Brighton

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:03, 4 April 2021 | Updated: 19:38, 10 September 2021

In a game of two halves, Manchester United came from behind to beat Brighton 2-1 at Old Trafford.

The win codifies United’s hold on second place and puts them in a strong situation to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

United’s performance in the first-half could only have been worse if Brighton had managed to score more goals. The only player who seemed to have anything like the same cutting edge about him as the Brighton lads was Mason Greenwood.

With Edinson Cavani playing up-top, Greenwood was out wide. He hit the post with an incredible snap-shot in the early going and was always looking to drive at Brighton or send the ball into the box. Nothing came of his efforts, of course, but he was trying.

In the second period Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford put together one moment of magic together to draw United level, proving why they are always in the XI even though they’re obviously exhausted. A lovely goal that leveled the scores, but in truth United didn’t look like finding a winner after that.

Then with 83 minutes gone, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer removed the ineffective Edinson Cavani (“El Matador” was clearly tired) and pushed Mason Greenwood centrally. One minute later Mason Greenwood scored the game-winning goal; an opportunistic header from close-range.

After a frankly absurd 17 goals last season, Greenwood has had a much harder time of things this campaign. His goal today was just his 2nd in the Premier League this season, his sixth across all competitions. It’s not that he’s suddenly become worse, it’s that what he was doing last season, where nearly every half-chance and snap-shot he took went in, was unsustainable.

What a striker like Greenwood needs is a steady supply of easy chances to finish. A place at the head of an attack that sends balls into the box for them to pick up regular goals and build their rhythm to the point where they can then have the confidence to finish the kind of snap-shots Greenwood was bagging last season with a greater regularity.

That’s just not going to happen when playing in right-wing, a position United need to provide creativity. It will only come when Greenwood is central and whoever is on the right (Dan James? Paul Pogba?) is the one sending crosses into the box.

With Anthony Martial out until the end of the season (or near there, anyway) and Edinson Cavani looking out of sorts as well, there will never be a better time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to give Mason Greenwood a run up-front. Put him at the head of the side, teach him to run the channels and stay up-top so he is always in position to score goals like tonight’s match-winner.

The way Greenwood got that goal, standing back to create the space ahead of the centre-backs and only racing into it as Paul Pogba is shaping to strike the ball is the kind of thing you can’t teach. The confidence and technique on the header was something you can (as Greenwood admitted post-match; he has been working on headers).

“He’s learned from Edin,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer post-match, pointing out how important the Uruguayan has been as an inspirational figure as much as a goalscorer in his own right. Cavani could obviously score the kind of goal Greenwood did, but age, injury and fatigue have him slowing down; but that works out just fine as Mason Greenwood is only speeding up.

The “Mancunian Matador” is Manchester United’s most dangerous striker (and yes, technically he is from Bradford not Manchester but he’s played for The Red Devils since he was six-years-old) and they need to play him in his true position so he can begin to deliver these kinds of striker-style goals on a regular basis. His combination of finishing technique, instincts and intelligence is something no other United player (outside of the aging Cavani) can be said to possess. And at 19-years-old he is only going to get better and that can only mean good things for Manchester United.