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Everything’s perfectly setup for Mason Greenwood to emulate Marcus Rashford against Arsenal

After scoring on his Europa League debut last week, Greenwood will be hoping to follow in Rashford's footsteps by sinking the Gunners

Man United are in a real mess at the moment.

Their defence, while stronger now than it has been for quite some time, is still learning to gel together, while the midfield is lacking genuine creativity whenever Paul Pogba is sidelined or out of sorts.

And up front, they’re desperately missing the recently-departed Romelu Lukaku.


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A recent injury-crisis certainly doesn’t help matters. 

Ahead of their clash against Arsenal this weekend, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be without the out-of-form Marcus Rashford after he hobbled off during the defeat to West Ham, while Anthony Martial’s return from injury is still not guaranteed.

That leaves their attacking numbers depleted, with Lukaku now enjoying life at Inter Milan – where he’s netted three times already under the loving gaze of Antonio Conte – alongside Alexis Sanchez.

Daniel James has started his United career in blistering form, but it would be unfair to expect him to suddenly become a regular goal-scoring threat.

That leaves teenager Mason Greenwood to suddenly lead the line against the Gunners. 

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Greenwood’s been discussed in almost hushed tones amongst supporters at this early stage of his career, with many still digesting the high praise that’s been heaped upon him by his manager.

During pre-season, Solskjaer claimed he wasn’t concerned by Lukaku’s impending exit as the club already had Greenwood on the books to fill the void left by the Belgian.

And then more recently, the Norwegian described the 17-year-old as ‘one of the finest goalscorers he has seen’.

For a man that’s played alongside the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ruud van Nistelrooy, that’s some statement.

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But in a moment just 17 minutes from full-time in United’s midweek Europa League match against Astana, Greenwood lived up to the hype with a moment of brilliance.

With his manager’s pre-game praise perhaps ringing in his ears, the youngster received the ball on the edge of the area and switched it from his left foot to his right, dragging his marker the wrong way, before firing his shot through the legs of the goalkeeper to score his first senior goal.

It was an outburst of natural talent peppered with youthful confidence, and it might’ve just saved United’s Europa League campaign from an embarrassing beginning.

By scoring, Greenwood became United’s youngest ever goalscorer in European competition; a record that was previously held by Rashford.

 

Back in 2016, the 18-year-old Rashford was the new kid on the block.

And much like Greenwood is now, he too was drafted into the first-team with the club suffering an horrific injury crisis ahead of a Europa League game against FC Midtjylland.

Initially named as a substitute on the team sheet, Rashy was only elevated to the starting line-up after Martial injured his hamstring in the pre-game warm-up.

And with United stuttering against the relatively obscure Danish side, Rashford became an instant sensation by striking his first senior goal just after an hour of play, before duly netting his second 15 minutes later.

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Rashford’s debut brace kick-started one of English football’s most extraordinary zero-to-hero stories in recent times, with him going onto to score on his Premier League debut in the following week.

His taste for debut goals continued, as the unfortunate Martin Demichelis found out in the young forward’s first-ever Manchester derby, while perhaps the most memorable of the lot came in just third-minute of his England senior debut ahead that more-or-less sealed his place in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.

Of course, it’s impossible for Greenwood to match this record – for one thing, he already made his Premier League debut by coming off the bench against Cardiff at the tail-end of last season – but he could use Rashford’s extraordinary rise as inspiration this weekend.

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In the three days between scoring against Midtjylland and United’s next fixture – in the Premier League against old foes Arsenal – many questioned whether Rashford could do it against a better level of opposition.

But two goals scored in a famous 3-2 win against the Gunners made him a household name, and likely saved then-manager Louis van Gaal from being instantly dismissed.

The same might be being asked of Greenwood this week, ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford.

United’s defeat to West Ham on Sunday has left the club a scarcely believable 10 points adrift of table-toppers Liverpool, and Solskjaer on the brink of losing his job.

There’s a lot of pressure on Greenwood’s shoulders, but he plays at a club with a history of young players rising to the occasion.


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