Man United might have expected 10 goals from Mason Greenwood this season… but his exit means Antony, Sancho, Hojlund and others must quickly find their shooting boots with NO money left
- Erik ten Hag’s side struggled to score goals despite progress last season
- Mason Greenwood decision means the coach’s plans will have to change again
- With money tight to sign a new forward, United’s current ones must deliver
A manager as meticulous as Erik ten Hag would almost certainly have been formulating a plan of reintegration for Mason Greenwood at Manchester United.
The Dutch coach is understood to have been in favour of Greenwood’s return to the first-team fold and had reached out to the forward as the club conducted their internal investigation.
Although it would have taken a little time for Greenwood to rediscover the sharpness that saw him score 35 goals in 129 games for United before his suspension in January 2022, Ten Hag no doubt viewed him as another option in attack who might deliver 5-10 goals this season.
But that now won’t happen after United and Greenwood mutually decided it would be best if he continued his career elsewhere.
Considering purely the playing side as United stumble into the new season, this outcome does leave Ten Hag with an attacking void to fill.
Mason Greenwood will bid farewell to Manchester United after club and player mutually agreed it would be best to depart following an internal investigation
Once he regained his match fitness and sharpness, Greenwood may well have delivered 5-10 goals for United this season had he been reintegrated into the team
United manager Erik ten Hag may have budgeted for those Greenwood goals but his exit now places additional pressure on the other attackers in his squad
Any Greenwood goals budgeted for will now have to be provided by others, putting additional pressure onto a forward line already showing signs of strain.
The internal investigation has dragged on for so long, it has left United with precious little time to go back into the market for another attacker even if they had the funds or the will to do so.
They’re right up against it with Financial Fair Play [FFP], having accepted a £257,000 fine earlier this summer for failing UEFA’s ‘break-even’ test and will need to watch expenditure.
In any case, the way their midfield was exposed by Wolves and Tottenham in the opening two games of the season means that area needs to be the priority.
They have also shelled out massively on £72million striker Rasmus Hojlund, who hasn’t played a single minute yet as his back problem is managed.
Although Greenwood operates mainly off the right, he has – or at least had – the finishing skills worthy of a centre forward.
The 21-year-old could easily have played some games there, allowing Hojlund to sit the odd one out and reduce the risk of making his back issue worse.
Anthony Martial, their other out-and-out centre forward, is nowhere near reliable enough when it comes to injuries – he had five separate lay-offs last season, missing 27 matches – and United are inviting offers for the Frenchman anyway.
It puts extra pressure on £72million arrival Rasmus Hojlund, whose back problem is being carefully managed, to hit the ground running in United colours
Marcus Rashford (left) will be expected to match the 30 goals he scored for United last season, while Antony (right) will come under greater pressure to deliver more goals and assists
Manchester United scorers 2022-23
30 – Marcus Rashford
14 – Bruno Fernandes
9 – Anthony Martial
8 – Antony
7 – Casemiro, Jadon Sancho
6 – Fred
5 – Alejandro Garnacho, own goals
3 – Scott McTominay, Marcel Sabitzer, Cristiano Ronaldo
2 – Diogo Dalot, Christian Eriksen, Wout Weghorst
1 – Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez
So Hojlund could now end up playing far more often than he maybe expected, adding to the enormous pressure to score that comes with his high price tag.
Marcus Rashford will be feeling that weight of expectation anyway. He netted 30 times in all competitions last season and it’s just as well he did. United’s return of 58 league goals – 17 by Rashford – was swamped by all of their rivals.
It looks as though United will be relying on the England star to score a similar number in this campaign and that’s far from guaranteed.
The reality is that others urgently need to step up. Jadon Sancho is now into a make-or-break season if he is going to succeed at Old Trafford.
The £73m winger managed seven goals and three assists last season either side of a spell out of the squad to focus on his mental health. He’ll be expected to improve on both those tallies.
The fact 19-year-old Alejandro Garnacho has started both Premier League games so far ahead of Sancho means he’ll have to seize every chance he’s given.
The Argentine teenager scored six times in a breakthrough 2022-23 and impressed with his willingness to run directly at defenders. But he remains an unpolished diamond.
There needs to more from Antony, too, now he’s had a season to settle into English football.
The Brazilian, who now won’t face competition from Greenwood for his right-wing position, managed eight goals and three assists in his maiden season for United.
Jadon Sancho is entering a make-or-break season for his Manchester United career
Alejandro Garnacho has started both United games so far ahead of Sancho on the left wing
Anthony Martial came off the bench against Tottenham but injuries make him unreliable
But an £86m transfer fee comes with an expectation to produce better numbers than that and he has received the repeated backing of Ten Hag, who broke the bank to sign him from Ajax.
The highly-regarded Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri has enjoyed a cameo in both games so far but has been linked with a loan move to Sheffield United.
That will leave Amad as Antony’s main competition on the right wing when he returns to full fitness.
The 21-year-old was excellent on loan at Sunderland last season and definitely deserves opportunities to prove what he can do.
Facundo Pellistri has featured in both United games off the bench but could be loaned out
Amad is likely to supply the main competition to Antony’s place on the right side of attack
United will need a sizeable goal contribution from captain Bruno Fernandes again this season
But it’s clear now Greenwood isn’t coming back into the fold, everyone across the front line and the midfield – Bruno Fernandes’ contribution of 14 goals and 15 assists last season was vital – needs to sharpen up in front of goal.
Scoring was a major issue last season yet United still managed to finish third, win one domestic cup and reach the final of the other. It’s unlikely they could replicate that without a major boost to the goal tally.
Early signs aren’t too promising. They were outplayed by Wolves and fortunate to win 1-0, thanks to a goal by defender Raphael Varane. Last Saturday, 22 shots against Spurs failed to yield a goal.
United can’t be as toothless again this season – and Mason Greenwood isn’t coming back to help them.
Source: Read Full Article