Mason Greenwood 2020/21-Season Review:-

Last season was the beginning of a transitional phase for the Red Devils. With Ole’s first full season in charge many changes were made in the squad and tactics. A lot of young players were integrated into the squad and many had big developments. One of them was Mason Greenwood. With his good performances one after the other he earned his place in the first team despite being a teenager. A lot was expected of him this season and in this article we are going to analyse Greenwood’s 2020/21 season for Manchester United.

Season First Half:-

Greenwood would have never thought that the start of the new season will be so disastrous. He got entangled in an incident with call girls along with fellow England teammate Phil Foden. The English media as usual tore into him and it had a detrimental effect on his mental health. As the Premier League began the impact of it could be clearly seen. He looked completely out of touch in the first 3-4 games. Just after that he suffered a knock against Newcastle and was out for one game. Ole had then backed Greenwood when reports surfaced that he was punished for coming late to training. Ole said that he was a dedicated lad and he had no issues with him. Greenwood scored his career’s first UCL goal against RB Leipzig. It was another milestone for him and it boosted his confidence.  A couple of games later he suffered another knock which kept him out for 18 days. As he was returning from illness, Ole backed him again and said that he had full confidence in him. Greenwood came on as a sub in a lot of games as he slowly regained his form. After a long dry spell Greenwood scored against Liverpool in the FA Cup. Signs of improvement had started to show in his game and now he was playing more confidently.

Season Second Half:-

Although he didn’t score, Mason was now concentrating more on improving his overall gameplay. Come April, and Mason was finally back to his best. He scored in three games consecutively in the Premier League against Brighton,Spurs and Burnley. Not only goalscoring,but now his movement on the pitch was better, his touches were better and he had improved his vision and decision making too. It was great to see someone who had such a bad start to the season finally getting on his feet. He complemented an attack consisting of Rashford and Cavani in most of the games and did it very well. He looks like an established figure in the team now and will only improve further.

Best Position:-

A question many united fans have had in mind is, which is Mason’s best position? Is it RW or CF? Well the answer to that is Mason should continue playing RW until he enhances his skills in order to become a CF. When asked about his position, Greenwood said this in a presser back in February, “  I don’t mind [where I play]. I could play anywhere across the front three. I can play on the right, up front and even sometimes on the left. For me, it’s just about adapting into any position I go in. If it’s up front or on the right, I don’t really mind, really. I’ll take it as they come.” As for what Ole had to say,” Mason was a bit shy there because he can play No.10, as well as a shadow striker,” he clarified. “He can play right, centre forward, 10 and, at a stretch, maybe on the left. We just have to give him time to find his final position.” We think that Mason will play RW until he develops his physique and awareness to play as a CF. Perhaps he can follow the footsteps of Robin Van Persie who became a CF at the age of 24 after playing as RW till then. Greenwood’s agility,dribbling and quick feet are perfectly suited for that RW position at the moment. It depends on how he improves his overall gameplay in the future whether he can play as a CF later or not.  

Next Season Expectations:-

There are more challenges ahead next season, as Greenwood will feel under pressure to keep up the momentum and outscore this season. But we know Greenwood and his ability to step up and deliver whenever he is asked to. The big concern is one of fatigue and over exposure amid a condensed fixture list. This is one of the reasons United need to help him out and not over play him at this age and therefore Amad Diallo’s development will help in this matter.

 Career Highlights So Far-

  1. 17 first team goals in his debut season

Greenwood tied a record set by George Best and Wayne Rooney on their first campaigns for the club.

  1. Five Europa League goals in his first season

Greenwood’s goals in the Europa League saw him become the club’s youngest ever scorer in European competition.

  1. 10 Premier League goals

Greenwood had become the first teenager since 1997/98 to score 10 Premier League goals or more in a season.

  1. Absolutely prolific at youth level

Greenwood scored 31 goals in 30 under-18 games, plus five in five UEFA Youth League matches. He scored three in three FA Youth Cup games, and four in seven under-23 matches, before being fast-tracked to the first team.

  1. Already a Champions League scorer

Greenwood scored his first Champions League goal for Manchester United against RB Leipzig. It came with his first ever shot in the competition.

  1. The 20 goal mark

Greenwood scored his 20th United goal in December 2020. He became the youngest United player to do so since Norman Whiteside in 1987.

  1. Double figures again

Greenwood reached double figures for the second successive season in the win over Roma. He became the second United player to score in five separate competitions in the 2020/21 season.

Strengths and Weaknesses :-

We have plotted a pizza chart of Mason Greenwood showing his percentile stats. The first one includes stats for the 20-21 season across all comps and the second one includes stats for the 19-20 season in EPL only. There’s a clear indication of his overall game improvement this season. He has been better on the ball and is more confident going forward. Finishing is his strongest attribute as is evident although it has dipped a bit this season. Mason plays as an inside forward in United’s system and he has integrated into that role perfectly. He needs to improve his awareness and work on the things he is lacking in such as movement off the ball, strength and decision making . For now he will play RW and build his game from that position. More game time will increase his chances of developing further and being consistent in a team which has lacked a good RW for ages.

The Importance Of Edinson Cavani

Owing to fitness issues due to Quarantine and not playing much football in the last few months, Edinson Cavani had to wait before he could get his first start for Manchester United since his free transfer on deadline day. While most fans were frustrated by another underwhelming transfer window, Cavani was welcomed at the club with open arms and there was a lot of curiosity on how this transfer may pan out. United fans were put out of their misery when the Uruguayan finally made his first start in the 4-1 win against Istanbul Basaksehir at Old Trafford last week. Cavani didn’t score but he was the most influential player on the pitch, constantly on the move, pressing defenders and expertly linking up play. The signs were promising. 

The Red devils then travelled to the south coast to face Southampton, a tricky tie away from home. United went 2-0 down at half time thanks to some James Ward-Prowse magic which spurred Solskjaer to bring on Cavani at half-time to try and turn the tide. Funnily, Cavani was late to step onto the pitch as he apparently had the wrong boots on. But once he stepped on the pitch, it was clear he was wearing the right boots. He whipped in a cross for Bruno Fernandes to score the first goal past the impressive Alex McCarthy. A few minutes later, Cavani put himself on the scoresheet via a diving header from a deflected shot. And then in stoppage time, The 33 year old scored his second to complete the comeback and give Manchester United the 3 points. It may have taken a while, but ‘El Matador’ had finally arrived at Manchester United. 

Today, we dive deeper into the Uruguayan’s career and what makes him such a good striker. 

Career History

Born in northwestern Uruguay, Cavani first earned accolades after impressing for Uruguay in the 2007 South American Youth Championships. This prompted many top clubs to take a closer look at him. Eventually, it was Palermo who gave him his move to Europe in 2007. He scored 34 times for Palermo encouraging Walter Mazzarri to buy Cavani for Napoli at the start of 2009/10 season. 

Cavani’s Napoli career was a revelation. Along with fellow teammates Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, Cavani helped the Partenopei propel from a mid table Serie A side to Champions League regulars. He scored 33 goals in each of his first two seasons, including the winning goal in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus which brought Napoli silverware glory for the first time in over 20 years. He managed to score 20+ goals for 3 consecutive seasons in Serie A, a feat managed only by Gabriel Batistuta and Antonio Di Natale in the past. 

In 2013, it became apparent that Cavani would be moving away from the club and reportedly, Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward was keen on signing the Uruguayan. Sir Alex Ferguson had just retired and David Moyes was at the helm. Moyes liked the idea of having Cavani at the club which led to discussions and talks with his agent. Cavani, only 26 at the time, would’ve been more than happy to move to England. However, David Moyes went to watch Cavani 3 times and was unimpressed with what he saw. Ed Woodward still wanted to sign Cavani but Moyes refused which led to Cavani joining his teammate Lavezzi in moving to the French capital. 

PSG, at the time, were just starting to splash the cash in order to build a team capable of winning the Champions League. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were already at the club, and Cavani and Lavezzi were added to the list of elusive signings the Paris-based club would make over the coming years. Ibrahimovic being the main man meant Cavani would play from the left, but that didn’t stop El Matador from scoring goals. He continued his goalscoring form by crossing the 20 goal mark in each of his first 3 seasons before PSG went through a lot of changes in 2016. Ibrahimovic and Blanc left the club, Neymar was still at Barcelona and Unai Emery was hired as manager. The following season was the one in which Cavani was the main striker at the club. He scored 49 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions with 35 of them being in the league which won him the golden boot. An impressive return, the transition was something similar to how Karim Benzema came into his own when Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid. 

But, PSG were knocked out in the Champions League Round of 16 and finished second to Kylian Mbappe’s high-flying Monaco which led to PSG signing Mbappe and Neymar for a combined fee of 357 million pounds the following season. Tensions started to rise when Neymar and Cavani were seen fighting over who would take the penalty duties at the club leading to rumours of a rift between the Brazilian and the Uruguayan. But Cavani was not a diva so he didn’t complain at all, something that has been synonymous with him throughout his career- He always kept the team before himself. 

The 19/20 season was Cavani’s lowest in his career. He started only 7 Ligue 1 games and his year was marred with injuries. PSG decided not to renew his contract and signed the younger Mauro Icardi on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell at the club. In fact, Cavani did not travel with the rest of the PSG squad to Portugal to complete the remaining Champions League games as his contract at the club was almost over. Cavani didn’t want to risk one last move to a top European club due to injuries and it turned out to be the right decision. Cavani was set to join Benfica on a free transfer but the Portugese club could not put together a financial package to bring the Uruguayan to Liga NOS. In the end, Manchester United got their man and even though it’s early signs, it looks like a good deal. 

Tactical Analysis

The one thing that Cavani is recognised the most by is his terrific off-the-ball movement. His attacking movement and positional sense is what makes him such a great striker. Yes, he has a reputation of missing easy chances and sometimes he takes multiple attempts to score but he is able to create those many chances for himself due to his excellent movement. Cavani is always on the move, he wants to be on the end of every pass, every cross, and every long ball. 

It is also very evident in the two goals he scored vs Southampton 

Here, you can see how Cavani is the only one making a move from both the teams as Bruno Fernandes takes a shot from the edge of the box. Cavani’s movement is based on the off chance of getting an easy tap-in from a rebound or a deflection. 

And that is exactly what happens. Fernandes’ shot is deflected and it falls nicely for the Uruguayan to head it in. 

In the second goal, as soon as Rashford gets in a crossing position, Cavani makes a near post run catching Vestergaard by surprise. Rashford finds him with an inch-perfect cross which ends up being the winning goal to complete Manchester United’s comeback. 

Whoscored.com lists Headed attempts as one of Cavani’s strengths but says Aerial duels are one of his weaknesses. Yet, he scores most of his goals from headers. In the calendar year 2019, Cavani had an xG of 5.20 after crosses and also scored 4 headed goals. In fact, the two headed goals he scored against Southampton were the most any Manchester United player has scored since 2018/19.  His movement enables him to get away from the defenders and find free spaces in the penalty box. 

In this image, Kurzawa receives the ball wide left. Cavani makes a fake run towards the inside making the defender commit to marking that area leaving a lot of space behind. 

As soon as there is a possibility of a cross, Cavani attacks the free space left behind by the defender and as the defender has already committed to marking the central area, he is late in tracking Cavani’s run. 

Look at how far Cavani has pulled away from the defender. He gets a lot of free space and expertly heads in the cross. 

His movement is only one aspect of his on-field game though. Cavani has excellent hold-up and link-up play. He brings the wingers and the midfielders in the game through his link up and hold up play. He had a 72% pass completion rate in the penalty area in the Ligue 1 last season. His excellent passing and hold-up play coupled with his brilliant movement also helps him drag defenders away towards him enabling other players to attack that free space and score goals. 

At 33 years of age, El Matador may be past his best but his experience and mentorship will help the young Manchester United attack line a lot. His strengths are exactly the traits Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have lack. 

“He will bring energy, power and leadership. But most importantly, he will bring goals” was what Solskjaer said on Manchester United’s acquisition of Edinson Cavani and that is exactly what Cavani brings to this team. 

Mason Greenwood : United’s Diamond In The Rough

 In Football, whenever an exciting young talent bursts onto the scene and starts performing well beyond something that is expected of their age, a lot of headlines are made. Everyone’s talking about that player and how he has bags of potential and how his game will improve over the years and how his peak years are yet to come, etc. Wayne Rooney, when he first ‘burst onto the scene’ is probably the best example of this. In more recent years, Kylian Mbappe, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Ousmane Dembele have all made their mark on the big stage. This season was no different with us being introduced to diamonds like Erling Haaland, Phil Foden, Eduardo Camavinga and of course, Mason Greenwood. 

In this piece, we’ll talk about Mason Greenwood’s abilities and what makes him so special. 

(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

What does it mean to be a wonderkid?

But firstly, when someone says this player is a wonderkid or has “bags of potential”, what do they mean by that? Well, to understand, we can talk about the example of one of the greatest players to have ever played – Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo first “burst onto the scene” playing for Sporting Lisbon in a friendly against Manchester United and he left everyone on the away bench in awe. “Boss, he’s some player, that guy” were the words Ferguson kept hearing from the bench as Ronaldo showcased his skills and continued giving John O’Shea a torrid time at right back. Sir Alex Ferguson decided in the half time that they’re not leaving Lisbon until they’ve signed Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although, the then coach Rene Muelensteen tells an interesting story of how Cristiano Ronaldo went from a tricky teenager to an absolute goal machine. 

“With Mick [Phelan] and Carlos we set about the process of making him aware about his position and making him understand what to do in different positions. We did a lot of work on finishing from different angles. I had a format where I divided the penalty area into zones and you think about what to do in each of the different zones – lace kick, chip, inside foot, one touch or two, do you move into a different zone and so on. Then you break down the key elements of what makes a good finish. So now he’s aware of position, the type of ball coming in, how he’s going to receive it and the type of finish”

Ronaldo had given himself a target of 23 goals that season, Mulensteen upped it to 40. He ended up scoring 42. Ronaldo went from a flashy, tricky youngster to a matured, prolific goalscorer by training and changing different aspects of his game. 

Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his autobiography that Ronaldo was a bit too flashy for his liking when he came in. He always wanted to go for the spectacular like a mesmerizing piece of skill to beat his defender or a 25 yard top corner goal. Ferguson and Muelensteen worked hard to get the prolific side out of Ronaldo and improve his game for the better. 

This is what people usually mean when they say “bags of potential”. A player can be technically gifted in some aspects at 18 years old where most players cannot reach the same level in their whole careers. What matters is that with good coaching and hardwork, the player is able to use those abilities to his best ability and consistently over the course of his whole career. 

What makes Greenwood a wonderkid? 

Now, let’s have a look at the season that Mason Greenwood has had. 

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

While the Englishman played a few matches towards the end of the 18/19 season, the 19/20 season should be labelled as his ‘breakthrough season’. Greenwood scored 17 goals across all competitions last season, 10 of them being in the Premier League. The 18 year old’s 17 goals last season are the most any teenager has ever scored for Manchester United in a single season, tied with George Best (1965/66), Brian Kidd (1967/68) and Wayne Rooney (2004/05). Not a bad company to be in. 

Those who have followed Greenwood ever since his u18s days would hardly be surprised at the numbers he has produced at senior football level. The Englishman scored 31 goals in 30 games at the u18s level and added a further 9 assists to his tally, playing at that level when only 15 years old. His consistently good performances and staggering numbers meant it was only a matter of when and not if he was going to shine at the senior level. 

Style of play wise, you cannot find many weaknesses in Greenwood’s game. His dribbling is good, his passing is top notch, he is blessed with lots of pace and also good strength but his ultimate strength is his finishing. Greenwood has outperformed his xG number by 6.3, only Arsenal ace Pierre Emerick Aubameyang has bettered him in that aspect. Mason Greenwood has an xG of 3.7 which means that looking at the shots he has taken and the position in which he is taking those shots offer a low probability of those shots actually nestling into the back of the goal. Yet, the Englishman has managed to find the back of the net. 

In this image, you could see Greenwood being surrounded by Brighton players and the keeper Matt Ryan also having good positioning to stop any shot that may come in from that side of the pitch. Depending on Greenwood’s position and the position of the defenders surrounding him, this particular situation would warrant a very less xG. Yet, Greenwood takes a shot, nutmegging the defender and scoring into the bottom right corner.

Again, in this situation, statistically, the xG would come quite low as he is surrounded by Everton defenders and is outside the box. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has also got his positioning spot on. Greenwood, expertly finds a gap between the defenders and beats Jordan Pickford to slot it home into the bottom right corner, which is kind of becoming a trademark finish for the young sensation. 

His two-footedness also gives him an unique advantage in 1v1 situations against the defenders. He has completed 68% of his dribbles in the Premier League indicates that he is good with the ball at his feet and he is good at taking on defenders. He can either go onto his left foot or his right which makes it very hard for a defender to predict where he is going to go in a 1v1 situation. 

Greenwood, one could say, comes under the ‘technically gifted’ category. His passing is good, his dribbling is good, he can beat a defender and most importantly, he can finish brilliantly well. So, where does he go from here? How would he improve and really take his game to the next level?

What does the future hold for Greenwood?  

Overshooting his xG is only one side of the coin which shows he has exceptional finishing. The other being, he isn’t getting enough chances in order to score more goals which points to a little weakness he still has in his game – his movement. 

Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah, Kylian Mbappe are some of the best goal scorers in Europe currently but along with their goal scoring, these guys also have something in common – the amount of goals they miss. Salah amassed a record breaking 32 goals in the 2017/18 Premier League season but was also leading the charts for the most clear cut chances missed. Mbappe won the golden boot in the Ligue 1 last season and Lewandowski was arguably the best striker in Europe last season, but they both missed the most clear cut chances in Europe last season. 

These stats show that all the top strikers in the world get a lot of chances to score which can indicate the world class off the ball movement that they have. Due to having such good movement, Lewandowski, Mbappe and Salah are able to get into better positions and create a lot of chances for themselves by popping up in these goal scoring situations. Greenwood’s high exceeding of xG proves that he lacks in this regard. 

Arsene Wenger, widely regarded as the professor of football, once said that developing a young player is like building a house. You start with the technical abilities when the player is 14 years old. Then comes the physical aspect of a player till he’s around 17 years old. Then comes the tactical aspect when he’s around 18 or 19 years old. Greenwood is now 19 years old and there is still a lot of time for him to improve this aspect of his game. 

For large parts, Greenwood’s transition into the first team has been absolutely exceptional and it’s a testament to how well Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed it. Greenwood didn’t play much in the league during the first part of the season even though Manchester United were struggling with a lot of injuries. Most of his appearances came either from the bench in the Premier League or in the cup competitions. As the season went on, Greenwood started to get more and more minutes in the Premier League and since the restart last season, he’s been the first choice Right sided forward. 

(Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This allowed Solskjaer to keep the Englishman away from the pressure to succeed and let him freely express himself whenever he’s on the field. As soon as Greenwood looked confident on the ball in the Premier League or playing with the first team, he’s been the manager’s go to choice for the Right Winger spot. The youngster repaid his manager’s faith by putting in stellar performances in the league since the restart last season which also earned him his first England call up. 

There is a general consensus building around that if Mason Greenwood gets one chance to score a goal, he’ll bury it. But the downside is that he probably gets only one clear cut chance per match. But, now is the time when we can potentially see his game go to the next level as he slowly, but surely learns the tactical aspects of the game.  Having said that, 17 goals in his debut full season is extremely good. All in all it’s safe to say that Mason Greenwood is just getting started.