Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has “no doubts” Mason Greenwood will soon be back to his best after explaining why time out of the limelight has been in the teenager’s best interests.
Long touted as a future Old Trafford star, Greenwood scored 17 goals in all competitions during a stunning breakthrough season.
No teenager has scored more in a campaign for United. He equalled the tally managed by greats George Best, Brian Kidd and Wayne Rooney. His performances also saw the forward fast-tracked into the England set-up.
However, a troubled couple of months have since followed.
The 19-year-old was sent home, along with Phil Foden shortly after September’s senior debuts in Iceland. That was for breaching the bio bubble. Greenwood is also yet to reach last season’s levels, netting twice across eight appearances.
Further questions have been raised about the player in the media, including his lifestyle and a lack of sleep.
However, the player lost his close pal to an awful tragedy and that has clearly played its part.
“You have to take a step back sometimes,” said Solskjaer. “The boy’s only 19 and he’s had a fantastic year.
“If we go a year back, I left him out of the Carabao Cup against Chelsea. Mason stayed back and played against Doncaster in the Checkatrade (Trophy) to get game time and that’s how far he’s come.
“Now he’s got 19 goals for the first team, he’s made his England debut, he scored on his first Under-21s game. He’s had a fantastic development.
“Of course the headlines are going to be there about him when he scores, (or) if he doesn’t play.
“Everyone’s allowed to not be well and if you’re not well, you can’t train.
“He’s now stayed away, he’s been away eight or nine days from training. We’re just starting building him up again.
“I have no doubts about him. He’s got a very good head on him and his talent is there for everyone to see.”
Saturday evening’s return to Premier League action against West Brom may well come too soon for Greenwood, however.
Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones were the only players unable to train on Friday. The good news is Marcus Rashford returned for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury at Everton before the international break.
Victor Lindelof’s ongoing back complaint needs to be assessed. The game could see deadline-day signing Alex Telles finally make his league debut after a bout of coronavirus.
There had been confusion over the left-back’s availability. That’s after the Brazilian Football Confederation reported another positive test during an international break.
Solskjaer on Pogba row
One man whose selection, or lack of, that always grabs headlines, is Paul Pogba.
The 27-year-old’s future always seems to come under fresh scrutiny during his periods with the France national team.
Now comments from his national team manager this time have fuelled speculation.
Didier Deschamps said Pogba cannot be happy with his playing time and positioning at United.
Solskjaer, however, has brushed aside such talk.
“Paul’s had a difficult season last season,” he said. “He’s had Covid now (earlier in the season).
“I think those three games he played for France helps both us and Paul, and it helped France. He gets a rhythm, he gets his fitness.
“I’ve spoken to Paul. He certainly felt towards the end of the Portugal game and definitely the end of Sweden game he felt stronger for it.
“He played well, they qualified. I think he’s only going to improve. Paul is, as I’ve said, a very important player and very important person for us.
“To have him in form and happy is going to be vital for the run that we can hopefully put together now.”
Deschamps comments unhelpful
Put to Solskjaer that Deschamps’ comments on Pogba are unhelpful, the United boss tried to swerve the question.
“We always get questions and, managers, we try to answer as well as we can.
“I think the press sometimes makes more of it and people maybe at home not having the whole interview make more of it as well.
“We’re all experienced enough to try to avoid big, massive headlines.
“I spoke to Paul today about it. Of course he’s not happy when he’s not playing and not playing really well. He’s not been happy with his performances.
“He plays in the same position for France as he’s does for us, so that’s not a different scenario.”