Manchester United fired a statement of intent to their Premier League rivals with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Brighton.
Not only did the Red Devils pick up a crucial three points – against a side they’d never beaten away from home – they did it in some style as well.
It was a performance of the highest quality and while the headlines may be dominated by United’s generally scintillating display or Bruno Fernandes’ brace, the win was the latest reminder that young Mason Greenwood must be a regular starter for Manchester United.
In United’s first game back after the restart against Tottenham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to start Daniel James on the right wing.
But the Welshman comes to the fore when he’s given space to operate on the counter-attack, allowing him to utilise his pace. But with Jose Mourinho’s side sat back and inviting pressure, James struggled to get involved in the game.
In the end, he lasted just 62 minutes before being replaced by Greenwood. Along with Paul Pogba, he changed the game – injecting pace and a sense of urgency.
Greenwood has proven time and time again this season that despite his tender age, he can be just the man United need on the right wing. Solskjaer decided that he had seen enough in the final half an hour of the clash with Spurs to name him in the starting lineup against Sheffield United. And the youngster repaid his faith with a bright display as United impressively defeated the Blades 3-0.
As a result, it was hardly a surprise to see an unchanged United side from that victory. Solskjaer will have been desperate to see his side pick up exactly where they left off as they continue to chase down the sides in the top four.
And this is exactly what they did.
As has often been seen when James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka play together, there can be a lack of space for Wan-Bissaka to get forward and support attacks, with the pair getting in each other’s way. But with Greenwood occupying the role, his movement and desire to come in-field allows the right-back to influence matches further forward.
This was perfectly evident for United’s opening goal. Greenwood made an intelligent run inside, allowing Wan-Bissaka to get further up field before feeding the inside forward. Immediately, he looked to take on two Brighton players, before shifting the ball onto his favoured left foot and ruthlessly firing home.
The pair complement each other very well, while fans have become accustomed to seeing the youngster produce finishes such as his opener time and time again. Equally, however, the forward’s reading of the game enables him to link up with his other teammates so effortlessly, ensuring his side remain on top.
Additionally, while Greenwood’s eye for goal and his intelligence have been widely discussed and praised (rightly so, as well), what has often gone unnoticed is his vision.
His cross to set up Bruno Fernandes for the third goal was simply sensational. Latching onto a Nemanja Matic pass, Greenwood burst forward and despite running at full pace, he looked up and played a precise and perfect cross into the feet of his Portuguese teammate.
The best part? He made it look so effortless.
Solskjaer has found his ideal starting lineup, and Tuesday’s performance should only reinforce the notion that Greenwood must be a starter for this team. The Englishman has made himself more physically imposing after doing more gym work during the enforced break, making him even harder to dispossess.
Greenwood’s going from strength to strength, while his connection and understanding with his teammates is also clear for all to see.
United have found the winning formula, it’s now time to trust it and stick with it.