Mason Greenwood’s start against West Ham was his 50th appearance for Manchester United at senior level. While that might not sound all that outlandish on the surface, it’s an incredible stat when you consider he only turned 18 in October.
Making his debut as a late substitute in United’s Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in March 2019, it’s been a never-ending dream for both himself and United fans ever since.
His strike versus West Ham was his 17th for the season in all competitions, and while being coached by none other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might help, the teenage striker has all the tools to become a genuinely world class player. And no, this isn’t just another overhyped United academy prospect – the world is his oyster.
However, as incredible as his first full season in the senior set-up has been, United must be careful in the way they manage Greenwood going forward. While many would argue that signing a talent like Jadon Sancho may harm his development and intervene on the game time he’s proved he deserves, it would actually do the complete opposite.
Still only 20 himself, Sancho is by no means the finished product, but has had the time to develop into one of Europe’s most dangerous wingers since moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2017. Taking the plunge and moving to Germany at just 17 was a risk, but it has since proved rewarding for the England international, who wasn’t afforded with the same opportunities at Manchester City as Greenwood has been at United.
The move was a necessary one, and without it Sancho wouldn’t be in the position of football’s MVP. United’s interest in bringing him to Old Trafford is a is one of sport’s worst kept secrets, right behind wrestling not being real. It feels like if Sancho is going anywhere this summer, it’s to United, and it’s actually the perfect chance for Greenwood to develop with less on his plate.
If Sancho were to move to United, he would likely – no, definitely – occupy the role on the right flank that Greenwood has made a name for himself in. On the face, that sounds concerning, but it actually means that 18-year-old Greenwood is less subject to criticism and scrutiny from an inherently reactionary fan base that watches over him, and keeps him away from the limelight.
Currently, he’s the new kid on the block at Old Trafford. It’s never quite the same in the second season, though, and expectations of him will naturally be higher. If anyone can live up to these, it’s Greenwood, but it also leaves him with far too much unnecessary weight on his shoulders at such an early point in his career. If United can ease that by adding Sancho to the ranks, there’s no excuse not to.
As refreshed as United have looked since Bruno Fernandes signed and Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford returned from injuries, there are still major issues – depth being one of them. Adding more main event power in Sancho would increase competition for places at United and round off an already ruthless front four. It gives Greenwood an incentive to keep chasing for his spot in the starting XI, as well as allowing him to run riot from the bench in other circumstances – something his head coach is familiar with himself.
There’s no doubting Greenwood will be able to handle the increased pressure and expectations burdened onto him next season. His incredible breakthrough campaign has seen him equal a club record for most goals scored in a season by a teenager.
But there would also be no harm in continuing to add to those ranks, thus lessening the burden on his shoulders next season. Signing Sancho would allow Greenwood to focus on his football and not worry about being the man to rescue United every time the going gets tough; he is just 18, after all.
It also keeps Sancho on his toes, and allows United’s youthful attacking roster to continue gelling and developing with one another on the training ground, under the tutelage of Solskjaer, a lethal striker in his own right back in his day.