Mason Greenwood is a man and no longer a boy, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Bruno Fernandes fired a hat-trick in an emphatic 5-1 win over Leeds United at Old Trafford, while Paul Pogba illuminated his side’s Premier League opener with four assists – more than the three he managed in the entirety of the 2020-21 top-flight campaign.
The landslide scoreline did not appear on the cards when Luke Ayling’s piledriver brought Leeds level in the 48th minute, but soon afterwards Greenwood latched onto Pogba’s majestic pass to hurl the floodgates open.
The 19-year-old forward missed England’s Euro 2020 campaign through injury but was quickly up to speed on the opening weekend.
Although nominally playing as a centre forward, Greenwood only touched the ball in the Leeds box twice – one of these for his goal.
Instead, he caused persistent problems by dropping deep and disrupting the Leeds midfield, such as in the build-up to a first-half opportunity for Pogba when the game was goalless.
“I’ve got forwards who can play different positions. He scored a goal from the left-wing position, he’s so effective from the right, he can still be a number nine and centre-forward but he drops in,” said Solskjaer, who sent on Jadon Sancho for a second-half debut.
“He’s a natural footballer and the way he’s developed the past couple of seasons… the way he burst away on that second goal, that’s a man compared to the boy who was in the first team two years ago.
“He’s worked so hard in pre-season to get his fitness up and he’s ready to go.
“I think you can see the forwards we’ve got into the team with Mason, Jadon, Marcus [Rashford], Anthony [Martial] and Dan [James], they can play different positions.
“Edinson [Cavani] is probably our only one who is fixed in one position. The rest of them we should leave them to enjoy developing in their careers.
“I remember Wayne [Rooney] Carlos [Tevez] and [Cristiano] Ronaldo playing together. Good players can always play together. We need movements and that’s what we had today.”
Greenwood’s lead-restoring goal drew a particularly rapturous response from the Stretford End and Solskjaer explained the promise of playing in front of fans had persuaded veteran Uruguay striker Cavani to extend his Old Trafford stay.
“The last 18 months have been strange. The only interactions have been through the media,” he said.
“You watch the games on tele, you haven’t had that feeling of connection. To be reunited with the fans again, it’s important for the players.
“This is the real Man United, this is how I sold Man United to Edinson, for example. You can’t leave after one season playing with no fans. Man United is fans and players and everyone together.”
That answer had been in response to a query over whether Pogba was more likely to remain a United player in these circumstances after further speculation about his future.
“The short answer is, ‘yes’,” Solskjaer added.