Last summer, when it became clear that Romelu Lukaku was leaving the club and no one was coming in his place, Manchester United fans were frustrated. While many believed the time was right for the Belgian to be sold, the decision not to replace him seem flawed if we had any aspirations of improving on last season’s 6th placed finish.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer initially claimed we would be looking for a replacement but when it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, the manager talked up the potential of Mason Greenwood.
It was time now for Rom to go because I think we got a good deal, he’s happy, so I think both parties ended that deal as it should be. Rom was injured for a while this pre-season, he didn’t participate, so I just hope for him that he’ll get a good start at Inter Milan.
Towards the end of last season, we didn’t score a lot of goals, did we? And you do have players that you think will have an impact and Mason Greenwood’s pathway would have been a lot more difficult, of course if we had another forward there. For me, I believe Mason is going to be playing and involved a lot and when he is, he’ll score goals.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Greenwood have all already scored more goals for United this season than Lukaku did last.
In the Premier League, the best goal contributions have unsurprisingly largely come from players at the top clubs. Looking at the top providers, Kevin De Bruyne has 29 goals and assists (18 + 11), Mo Salah has 28 (19 + 9), Jamie Vardy has 27 (23 + 4), Sadio Mane has 23 (16 + 7), Marcus Rashford has 22 (16 + 6), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has 22 (20 + 2), Raul Jiminez has 22 (16 + 6) Anthony Martial has 21 (16 + 5), Danny Ings has 21 (19 + 2), Son Heung-min has 20 (10 + 10), and Gabriel Jesus has 19 (12 + 7).
What’s interesting about Greenwood’s contribution of 10 goals and assists (9 + 1), is how little playing time he’s had. He averages one every 108 minutes on the pitch, which is fairly remarkable given his age and inexperience. You could compare him with Roberto Firmino for example, who has 15 goals and assists (8 + 7), which works out as one every 189 minutes.
While having the option of another proper no.9 obviously could have helped us this campaign, it may well have blocked the development of Greenwood, who has emerged as a real threat on the right flank of United’s attack.
Still, despite Greenwood’s emergence in the first team, rumours linking us with a move for Jadon Sancho, who would play in the same position, haven’t died down. Reports from Germany suggest that the £109m move for the Borussia Dortmund forward is set to go through on the condition United qualify for the Champions League next season.
Dortmund already have their replacement sorted, with Jude Bellingham opting to sign for the Bundesliga side over United. We thought we’d got a deal done in March when he was invited to the club and met Sir Alex Ferguson, but in the end he decided to follow Sancho’s career path. “The best way to get into the starting XI at United is to play for Dortmund first,” an international recruitment expert told The Athletic.
While Greenwood’s rise has been brilliant to watch, with Wayne Rooney arguably the last player to come through academy ranks in the Premier League who looked as certain to make it, the signing of Sancho would help propel United to the next level. Sancho has 33 goals and assists (17 + 16) in the Bundesliga this season in just 32 appearances, which is an incredible return. Having a player of his ability for Greenwood to learn from and also to provide competition for would be incredible.
First, United have to get themselves in to the Champions League next season and are in a good position to do so. But last minute lapses like against Southampton on Monday night cannot happen again in the remaining three league games of the season.
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.