Mason Greenwood says he is still just a kid having fun at his boyhood club but the teenager relishes the responsibility of bringing trophies back to Manchester United, starting with the Europa League.
Long tipped to be a future Old Trafford star, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed the academy talent his debut aged just 17 in the jaw-dropping Champions League triumph at Paris St Germain in March 2019. Greenwood has gone on to score 29 goals in 104 appearances for United, who he watched lift the Europa League in 2017 from the sofa with his dad.
The two-footed 19-year-old forward has gone from schoolboy to star since then and knows just how important beating Villarreal in Gdansk this Wednesday will be to Solskjaer’s improving side.
“Obviously you can’t underestimate the opponents that we’ve got, which are Villarreal,” Greenwood told the PA news agency.
“They’re a good side and they’ve done well to get here, beating Arsenal as well in the last round.
“It’ll be a good game but we’ve been working on it, 100 per cent focus onto the final.
“To bring home a final (win) is something the club needs, to bring home some silverware. We’ve not had any for a few years.
“To be a part of the team that actually does win a piece of silverware will be a good feeling.
“When you come and you’re in the academy, there’s pictures and photos on the walls of them back in the day winning the Champions League, the Premier Leagues, the FA Cups and that’s what it’s all about, really, for a football club.
“If you want to be the best football club in the world or in the country you’ve got to bring home the silverware and that’s something United have done over many years.
“We’ve maybe dropped off a little bit throughout the recent years but hopefully, after this one, if we win against Villarreal, that can be like a little stepping stone to get us started on where we want to be.”
Greenwood, who does not turn 20 until October, speaks with authority that belies his tender years and has reached some impressive individual landmarks since making his breakthrough.
The latest came this month when usurping Wayne Rooney as the top-scoring Premier League teenager in the club’s history – one of the few milestones the single-minded forward noticed.
“When Marcus Rashford was in the first team, he left his little footprints behind for me to follow and a little bit of a pathway in the academy,” Greenwood said.
“With the goals now that Rooney scored when he was a teenager, maybe overtaking him in the Premier League (in terms of goals scored by a teenager at United) maybe can start something huge for me at this club.
“Hopefully I can carry on scoring for many, many years and obviously winning trophies here. That’s what I always wanted to do.”
Greenwood has some way to go to get anywhere near Rooney’s achievements but there is no doubting he boasts the talent to shine for both club and country.
Such quality has been clear throughout his time in the academy and has seen him bestowed with the nickname, on social media at least, of ‘starboy’.
“I don’t really mind it, to be honest with you,” Greenwood said with a laugh. “I just concentrate on my football.
“I’m still a kid who’s having fun playing for United, playing for my boyhood club with many, many great players around me.”
Greenwood highlighted the guiding influence of the likes Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani, calling the latter a “good friend” and one of the best strikers he could wish to learn from.
There is similar praise for United boss Solskjaer, who he says is a decent person as well as a fine coach.
The 1999 treble hero has called Greenwood the best finisher he has ever worked with and, after some rocky moments earlier in the campaign, the forward feels he is playing better than ever.
Greenwood feeling more at home
“I think I’ve done better than last season,” the teenager added. “The performances when I wasn’t scoring, I still think I was playing well. I don’t think I was playing poorly.
“The final end product might not have been there. And obviously towards the end of the season it’s kicked in, but I still feel like I’ve done a lot better than last year.
“My goals and assists might not seem like it but in my opinion – and maybe the players around me – I feel like I’m more of a player for the team now, as well.
“You’ve still got to defend – you can’t always just score, you’ve still got to do the other sides of the game.
“It’s good to be back on the scoresheet and doing well. But I’d choose the team first and I’d rather have a good performance than just score one goal and not play well.
“I’d rather do it for the team because it is a team sport and that’s what I’m here to do. To be a part of the team and hopefully goals and (other) stuff can help the team as well.”