Is Greenwood ready to fill Man Utd’s No.9 void if Cavani leaves?

Greenwood Cavani Martial Manchester United GFX

Match statistics: Manchester United 1-0 West Ham

As Lukasz Fabiankski touched Mason Greenwood’s powerful shot onto the postin the 35th minute of Manchester United’s 1-0 win over West Ham on Sunday, you just knew it would notbe the teenager’snight.

Last season, Greenwood’s effort would likely have found the bottom corner of the Irons’ net, so unerring was his finishing at times.

But in 2020-21, the youngster’s goal-scoring touch has deserted him somewhat. He has just one Premier League goal this term, and only four in all competitions.

That is a statistic that Greenwood will be looking to improve upon in the campaign’s final months, particularly since an opportunity to prove himself as a central striker looks to be emerging.

It is in that position he started here at Old Trafford, and it was Greenwood who provided United with much of their attacking thrust as they aimed to break down a West Ham side that David Moyes had set up to frustrate their hosts.

Greenwood had five shots on the night – the most of any player on the pitch – and hit the woodwork in either half as the Red Devils struggled to break down their visitors from east London.

It is felt that Greenwood’s future will see him play more and more as a No.9 as he gets older and stronger, but there is potentially an opening right now if he can prove himself in the role.

Anthony Martial has failed to live up to expectations this season, scoring just four goals in 17 Premier League starts, and Greenwood can certainly add more dynamism than the France international to United’s attack.

The other alternative is a far more traditional No.9 in the shape of Edinson Cavani, who for much of the season had looked like the missing piece for United inside the penalty area.

However, with the ex-Paris Saint-Germain man apparentlyunhappy in England and keen to move on, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will again be left considering his options come the summer.

The Norwegian can either again go into the market to find a long-term, world-classstriker or head into 2021-22 with just Martial and Greenwood fighting it out for a starting berth.

With United facing budget constraints amid the pandemic, they can only really afford to spend big in one position, and until the revelations from Cavani’s father it was always felt that money would be used on a centre-back.

But with the Uruguay international now potentially set to leave, and with United having kepr four consecutive Premier League clean sheets, their priorities in the market could yet shift.

That is, unless, Greenwood can show himself to be the answer, and there were both good and possibly bad signs in his display against West Ham.

With Moyes’ team offering little space for United to counterattack, Greenwood found himself drifting over to the right-hand side in a bid to find pockets of room, something which regularly infuriated Solskjaer on the sidelines.

The Norwegian could be heard shouting “Mason, get in there!” from one particular corner as Greenwood headed for the byline rather than a striker’s natural home at theheart of the penalty area.

That is not to say that he was not effective when playing from wide.

A delicious cross in the first half should have been headed home by the returning Marcus Rashford, while a similar driving run down the flank led to the winning goal after the break, with Vladimir Coufal’s clearance at the back post from Greenwood’s ball in was directly followed by Craig Dawson heading Bruno Fernandes’ corner into his own net.

“His performance was really good and deserved a goal,” Solskjaer said of Greenwood post-match. “He’s played really well lately.

“He linked the play well, held it up for us, kept switching the play and had the two best chances. It was a great save by Fabianski and he unfortunately hit the post fromthe secondone.

“He kept creating chances for others as well, so very pleased with Mason at the moment.”

It is worth pondering whether a stronger presence on the right-hand side than Daniel James would eventually force Greenwood to stay central, while there is certainly an argument that he just needs more games in the position to learn its various intricacies.

With the title gone but a place in the top-four looking likelier by the week, Solskjaer has enough freedom to experiment in the Premier League, should he so wish.

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