A scoreless draw between Chelsea and Manchester United was hardly the ‘Super Sunday’ fans wanted but were probably always expecting, truthfully.
While a stalemate is not a bad result for either side, it also did them little good in making progress in a wide open race for the top four. Chelsea had the chances to win the game, while United also could’ve been rewarded should they have decided to take more of a risk.
It’s a disappointing one for fans of the Red Devils in particular, with three points now a must away to Crystal Palace before their derby clash against Manchester City. There were positives, though, with Mason Greenwood racking up 79 minutes as the central striker for United and impressing, despite not coming away with a goal.
After his explosive breakout in 2020 where he managed five goals and helped United to the top four following football’s restart, his first full season in the first team has been a touch hit and miss, which is expected with any 19-year-old, but still attracted plenty of unnecessary critics.
His two shots at goal at Stamford Bridge didn’t make for great viewing, but there were plenty of positives to take from his return to the striker role. Greenwood looked more energised, eager to impress and showed glimpses of his already high football IQ with a number of smart movements, runs off the defenders and quick, interchanging passing with his colleagues.
The teenager has had to settle for the role of makeshift right winger in his first full senior season with United. While he’s hardly flopped, the inconsistency across his performances is more than just his adolescence; it is not his strongest position, despite racking up four goals and five assists.
Greenwood often looks to cut inside and get a shot off from the right wing, rather than providing United with another avenue for goal creation. Couple this up with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inability to provide attacking thrust, and it makes for a weakened right flank. Young players are generally versatile and Marcus Rashford has developed into a better inside winger than an out-and-out centre forward, but this already doesn’t look to be the case for Greenwood, whose inconsistency and fleeting confidence is more prevalent when left isolated out wide.
Sure, it allows him to stand up his man and sit him down with those wicked step overs before angling for a left-footed shot, but Rashford provides a similar presence on the left. Greenwood, while not there yet, can be productive down the middle. The 19-year-old doesn’t have a weak foot, and can generate shot power from any angle or distance inside the 18-yard box from nothing with a clean first touch. Couple this up with tireless work rate and improving link-up play, and the blueprint is clear.
There is still work to be done, of course. Edinson Cavani is setting the pace for forwards at United and has upped the levels expected tremendously. While Rashford has improved his output to meet the level from a wider area, Anthony Martial has struggled to keep pace and Greenwood has had to shift wide to accommodate the Uruguayan. Has he done enough yet to warrant ousting the 34-year-old from the role? No. He needs to assert himself more in games against teams like Chelsea, and needs time to develop physically.
He can learn from him, however, and has done enough to earn a run of games in the role when Cavani isn’t available or needs a rest.
Consistency is key and regular minutes does United’s latest academy star no harm at all, regardless of where they come from. He’s in fine company on the training ground every day with a fine selection of teammates, while his head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably isn’t a bad learning resource either.
It’s time to put this all together, though. United’s fixture list remains demanding and with Cavani not able to play every game, it’s time for Solskjaer to use Greenwood as his replacement and let him have a run as United’s central striker. With a frightening natural finishing ability, his future is at centre forward.