At the age of 18, Mason Greenwood has already become the youngest player to represent Manchester United in both the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League. This campaign he also became the youngest United player to score in a European match, FC Astana were the unfortunate victims this time out.
Arguably though, his most impressive accolade to date was when he became the youngest Manchester United player to reach 10 goals since Norman Whiteside in 1984, the record was beaten with a coolly slotted penalty in the FA Cup fourth round tie against Tranmere Rovers.
These outstanding break-through performances, have given some insight into the talent Greenwood has and the reasons why he’s ranked third in this year’s NxGn list of the best emerging players in the world.
Mark Senior, a former coach at United’s development centres throughout Yorkshire, previously spoke to Goal about Greenwood catching United’s eye as a five-year-old.
"Scouts saw him when he wasn’t even playing; they were watching another player that day, Mason just wanted to join a local team in Bradford called Idle Juniors, but he wasn’t old enough, so he was kicking a ball around on the side of the pitch, waiting for his sixth birthday.
“As soon as he was six, we made sure we had someone to watch his first game. The team he was playing for had never won a game, and I am not sure they had even scored a goal. Then, Mason scored 16 on his debut and they won 16-1. A six-year-old made the local newspaper!"
Greenwood has impressed at every level since. As a 15-year-old he was promoted to the United U18 team and promptly scored 17 goals in 21 matches. This brought his precocious talent to the attention of the first team coaching staff who included him in the squad for United’s pre-season tour to the United States in July 2018, he signed his first professional contract shortly afterwards.
Mason Greenwood's passion for football and regular appearances for age groups above his own, put him in great stead for life at first-team level, speaking to MANUTD.COM he said, “At youth level, playing against bigger and older lads was always a challenge, so I was getting used to it (playing in older age groups), this helped me later adapt to being in the first team.
“When given a new challenge, I get my head down and work as hard as I can.”
This helped him to not only develop his footballing attributes but also his extraordinary physical capabilities. He entered an Under-13 sprinting competition and broke the British 100 meters record for that age group. But, Greenwood shunned athletics’ approaches and kept his eye on his ultimate prize: a career as a Manchester United player.
His speed was not confined to how fast he could run, it also applied to how fast he developed as a footballer. His coaches from the United youth set-up tell stories of how he would take less than a minute to learn a new trick, feint or move on the football pitch.
By the time he was seven he could pass and shoot with both feet, by the time he was 13 he could shoot with the power of an 18-year-old. By the age of 18, he was ready for his debut in Manchester United’s famous UEFA Champions League round of 16, second leg victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
But it’s this season which has seen Greenwood fully break into the Manchester United first team, he has made 36 appearances and scored 12 goals across all competitions. From youth system child prodigy to first-team teen sensation, Greenwood has shown every step of the way that he has all the talent, drive and focus to become a United stalwart for years to come.