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Manchester United need to remain patient with ‘consistent’ Greenwood

Mason Greenwood has had a turbulent first two seasons as a first team player at Manchester United. The lack of a break between the two seasons has meant that the teenager hasn’t had an opportunity to come up for air. It is a huge adjustment for a player of his age to adapt to his changing lifestyle and increased media exposure. There have been many consequences of the pandemic and the adaptation of youth players to senior football has certainly been impacted. He will not have been able to go on holiday or socialise with friends. The several media articles on his career and off-field activities may have had a greater impact during these times.

Below we will have a quick look at his season so far. There has been a clear drop off, but there are reasons for that and the pandemic has certainly had an impact. Mentally, it will be more difficult to deal with as a young player. Greenwood’s lack of form may be able to be explained by this.

This season, he has managed to score five times across all competitions, but only one has come in the Premier League. It is interesting to compare the minutes played across his two seasons to date. Last season, he played 1313 minutes and scored ten goals. Meanwhile, he has played 1297 minutes in the current campaign and scored once.

Towards the back end of last season, he was in superb form following the lockdown and seemed to secure a starting berth under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Some believe that it was the form of Greenwood that led to the Manchester United hierarchy to go cold on Jadon Sancho. The teenager was great at getting in to goal-scoring positions and he looked deadly when an opportunity arose. There was clearly something special about the forward and he was quickly making a name for himself in the Premier League.

However, those that closely monitor the underlying statistics did warn that Greenwood was over performing his and there was some regression likely in the future. Interestingly, his numbers across both seasons may provide the best argument for the value of expected goals (xG).

Last season, Greenwood had an xG of 3.39 at an average of 0.23 per ninety minutes. This season, he has an xG of 3.34 at an average of 0.23 per ninety minutes. Looking deeper into his number, his shots per ninety minutes has only slightly increased from 2.69 to 2.77.

The narrative surrounding Greenwood has changed, with pundits now suggesting that he isn’t ready to be a regular for Manchester United. However, his underlying numbers have barely changed, suggesting an impressive consistency for a young player. In fact, if supporters were to be highly critical, they would turn their attentions to the coaching staff for not improving the player in that time.

The main thing missing for Greenwood has been confidence and that may have impacted his finishing. He will have been affected by what happened in Iceland while part of the England squad. However, it was always going to be impossible for him to match the conversation rate he had last season.

Manchester United need to manage him carefully and ensure that his mental health is looked after. For a teenage attacker, his underlying numbers are impressive in both seasons. That said, there is room for improvement, as he has the potential to be even better.

The focus is now on his club to help him manage the peaks and troughs that come with a professional football career.

Stats taken from Whoscored and Understat 

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