Mason Greenwood is Man Utd’s one-man tribute to Ribery & Robben

At what age do you think Mason Greenwood was good enough to play for Manchester United‘s first team?

The start of July marks eight months since Greenwood become old enough to buy a pint in a Stretford pub, yet he has already proven himself over the past year of senior football to be so refined, his skills so honed, that you suspect the only reason United didn’t field him sooner was to save the rest of the league the embarrassment of being schooled by a schoolboy.

Sir Alex Ferguson was certainly aware of the preternatural talent emerging in the academy. According to the Daily Mail, those sat on a table with Ferguson at a League Managers’ Association lunch three or four years ago were told: “I think we have found one.” Greenwood’s performance in United’s 3-0 victory over Brighton only underlined that Fergie, as so often, was right.

There is a unique thrill to watching such a precocious talent take their first steps into elite-level football. Without the baggage of failure or consequences, that heady concoction of fearlessness and naivety sparks an unbridled joy and serves as a reminder of just how simple the game can be if you really want it to.

It can be seen in the directness with which Greenwood runs at defenders. For all the chin-stroking beauty of watching a 30-pass move lead to a goal, sometimes the easiest way to put the ball in the back of the net is to take it all the way there yourself.

As for his ability to strike the ball so cleanly with both feet, it’s at this point we can only feel sorry for those tasked with trying to stop him.

Spurred on by shouts of “go, go, go!”, Greenwood opened the scoring against Brighton by driving at Lewis Dunk – an England international linked with a £50million transfer no too long ago. Dunk appeared to be staring down a kaleidoscope at the blur of stepovers in front of him until Greenwood put him out of his misery by checking back onto his left foot to score at the near post.

The strength of the England youth international – it won’t be much longer before his ascent continues into the senior squad – on his left foot has drawn comparisons to Robin van Persie. Given Greenwood is equally comfortable on his right side, the forward is more like a one-man tribute to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery’s dovetailing at Bayern Munich.

“He has got a knack of that,” manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports afterwards. “He can go inside and he can go outside. He is just as good with his right foot as his left foot so he is developing into a fine player.”

If the 18-year-old has caught the eye thanks to his goalscoring prowess, his role in United’s third goal showed he has many more strings to his bow.

The deftness of touch to perfectly pick out Bruno Fernandes with a delicate chip to the back post displayed an intelligence well beyond his tender years, proving his fearlessness does not have to equate to recklessness.

Before the game, former United stalwart Gary Neville suggested on Sky Sports that Solskjaer may rotate Greenwood with Daniel James throughout the rest of the season.

After watching Greenwood’s 90 minutes at Brighton, Neville was more than happy to backtrack: “It’s getting to the point now where it will be impossible to leave this lad out.”

It’s easy to imagine Fergie is feeling pretty smug right now. He was right all along: United have most definitely found one.

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