Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he was right to let Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leave Manchester United, after Mason Greenwood spared his side’s blushes in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Greenwood underlined his huge potential with the only goal at Old Trafford as United secured a 1-0 win against Astana in Thursday’s Group L opener.
The 17-year-old showed why Solskjaer called him one of the best finishers he had seen, alongside fellow academy graduates Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Axel Tuanzebe, who all featured in the win.
Greenwood became the first player born this millennium to score for the club, justifying the faith shown by Solskjaer, who believes the departures of Lukaku and Sanchez were necessary.
To get him inside the box, you know something’s going to happen, the United boss said.
He can go inside, he can go outside. A great finish through the legs of the ‘keeper. Most of the time that’s quite open.
For sure it is natural for him to play football, natural for him to score goals, to be in and around the box.
As I said yesterday he knows how to hit a ball. Maybe he hit too hard in the first half, where he should have curled it a little bit more in the top corner.
But he showed glimpses today of what he can become.
Put to Solskjaer that you have to be brave to play a 17-year-old having not replaced high-profile players like Sanchez and Lukaku, the United boss said: For me, it was the right decision.
Because I think for the club and for him, I think he’s going to be important for us this season.
He’s not played a lot so far but he’ll get his minutes and he’ll grow and develop.
Greenwood’s growing influence looks set to be rewarded by United with a new and improved contract soon enough.
We’re always in talks with the boys, how we see the future, said Solskjaer, who saw David de Gea and Victor Lindelof extend their deals this week
And Mason is obviously one we want to keep with us.
Rashford: More to come from Greenwood
Rashford says United’s youngsters, like Greenwood, do not feel pressure when they are thrust into the first team because they are taught to deal with big-game situations in the academy.
Me being in his shoes in the past, I know how he feels, Rashford said.
Even more important, that was the goal that won us the game, that’s what everyone should be talking about.
He’s been doing well since he joined the first team and there is 100 per cent more to come from him. I’m sure he is excited and everyone else is excited as well.
I would not say it is a weight off his shoulders. For the kids coming through the academy, that does not exist for them, he added.
They have learned to deal with that all through their careers from when they are nine years old.
Every time they play a game for United’s academy, it is their biggest game of the season. They put everything into those games, they are used to having pressure.
It’s not a surprise when the young ones come on and do well, because of their work ethic. They all keep improving since they’ve come up with us.