Bruno Fernandes’ three goals and Paul Pogba’s four assists against Leeds may have taken the headlines in the immediate aftermath of Manchester United’s opening-day win over Leeds United, but as time has gone on since full-time, another player has been taking much of the adulation.
“That boy is a finisher and he’s going to be a top player.”
Souness has certainly had some controversial opinions when it has come to United players over the years, but this one was definitely accurate.
The way in which Greenwood burst clear of Leeds defender Pascal Struijk before driving an unerring finish into the bottom corner to put United 2-1 up against Leeds a week ago showcased everything fans and pundits already knew about the 19-year-old’s main strengths.
But it was the other side of his game, though, that will have pleased Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the most, while also offering a glimpse of the player Greenwood can become as he continues to develop.
Having struggled at times as a No.9 last season, Greenwood was exceptional playing as a central striker at Old Trafford.
His intelligent movement allowed him to link up well with Fernandes behind him, while also offering space for Pogba and Dan James to cut inside from their respective wings and cause the Leeds central defenders problems.
Greenwood also posted the highest passing accuracy of any United player on the day, finding his target 88 per cent of the time as he saw out the whole 90 minutes.
That is all a sure sign that the teenager is maturing, with Solskjaer having made clear that a player who left the club’s Carrington training base at the end of last season as a boy has returned as a man.
“He’s filling out, he’s stronger. His stride is stronger. When he ran away from the defender and scored his goal, it was a joy to see,” Solskjaer explained after the 5-1 win over Leeds.
“I don’t know if he thrives playing down the middle. He just loves playing football wherever he is on the pitch.
“He is so clean on the ball, so strong. When you have got kids who just play with courage and no fear whatsoever, it doesn’t matter where he is playing.
“His approach, attitude and application, everything he has done every day, he’s been getting better and better – and that’s maturity as well in the kid.”
As Solskjaer pointed out, it is not just Greenwood’s understanding of the game that has improved over the summer, but also his physical attributes.
There is no doubt that having to withdraw from the provisional England squad ahead of Euro 2020 will have been disappointing for Greenwood, but it is a decision that looks to have benefitted both the player and his club.
The time Greenwood has spent away from the pitch has allowed him to recharge, reset and work on his strength and fitness.
Unlike a number of his team-mates who went deep into summer tournaments and only had one pre-season game to play in before the new campaign began, Greenwood has been back at Carrington since mid-July working on all aspects of his game.
As such, he now looks much more like the player he did when football returned following the Covid-19 shutdown than he did at any stage in 2020-21.
It is expected that Greenwood will be named as Solskjaer’s starting striker when United travel to face Southampton on Sunday.
Last time the Red Devils visited the St. Mary’s Stadium, it was Edinson Cavani who was the hero, with the Uruguay international netting twice, including a stoppage-time winner, as United came from 2-0 down to record a 3-2 victory.
However, Cavani’s decision to take an extended summer break for personal reasons, combined with the club’s decision not to invest in a new centre forward this summer, is now allowing Greenwood to step in and show how much he has learned from training alongside the ex-Paris Saint-Germain striker over the past 10 months.
And so while all eyes will likely be on at least one of either Jadon Sancho or Raphael Varane on the south coast, presuming they make their full debuts, Greenwood finds himself in the perfect shape to again steal their thunder.
His “sensational” start to the season is a good sign that the youngster is going to perform very well this season.