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Sport Has Greenwood made a perfectly-timed dart into the England squad?

10:50  13 may  2021
10:50  13 may  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Gareth Southgate, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are posing for a picture: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

There's usually one. The player who makes an immaculately-timed dart to earn inclusion in the England squad for a big tournament, their late season form too irresistible to ignore.

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup it was the uncapped 19-year-old Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold and midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who'd played well on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea.

In 2016, it was Manchester United's 18-year-old striker Marcus Rashford, who'd just burst onto the scene, and two years earlier it was Everton's Ross Barkley and Southampton's Luke Shaw.

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This time around, it looks increasingly likely to be Mason Greenwood. United's latest teenage hotshot has scored eight goals in his last 11 games, the most recent coming in Tuesday night's defeat by Leicester.

Even if Gareth Southgate didn't have the luxury of an expanded squad of 26, it would be incredibly difficult to ignore the 19-year-old and his burst of scoring.

It will depend on how much weight Southgate places on player form as opposed to England pedigree because Greenwood still has just the one cap and the bad memory of being banished from the squad for breaching coronavirus guidelines in Iceland along with Phil Foden of Manchester City.

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There's also the fact that, leaving aside the automatic pick that is captain Harry Kane, the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Patrick Bamford, Jamie Vardy, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson and Danny Ings have all scored more Premier League goals than Greenwood this season.

And yet, it appears increasingly likely the teenager will be the one to get the nod on May 25.

The nature of Greenwood's recent goals suggests he can offer England something a little bit different, whether deployed as a back-up centre-forward to Kane, probably off the bench, or on the right side of the attack.

It's the way Greenwood creates shooting space simply by shifting the weight of his body and nudging the ball from one foot to another, the way he effortlessly rolls defenders as he did Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings to score in front of Southgate last Sunday.

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He doesn't offer the same aerial threat as a Kane or Calvert-Lewin, that's true, but he is more nimble in tight areas inside the penalty box and unerringly accurate with shots from any angle and with both feet.

In scoring United's equaliser against Leicester on Tuesday, it looked for a split-second as though Greenwood's first touch to get past Caglar Soyuncu had taken him too wide.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: ( © Provided by Daily Mail ( a man sitting on a football field: ( © Provided by Daily Mail (

Yet he managed to thread the shot across Kasper Schmeichel, who barely got down to save it, and through a defender's legs into the far corner. Not many are better at locating the bottom corner from any angle or range.


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Form aside, there's also the sense that if Southgate introduced Greenwood from the bench at Wembley during the Euros, there would be a ripple of excitement at what is about to unfold.

With all due respect to the names mentioned above, it's hard to get that feeling if you saw many of them preparing to come on during a big game.

Gary Neville put it well when speaking about Greenwood last month: 'If England need a goal, I would bring Greenwood on.

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'He's naturally a better finisher than Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, even though he doesn't have the goals of Sterling, and he's got that quality in tight spaces in and around the box.

'I don't think there's a natural replacement for Kane, but I think Greenwood's the only one who can really finish.'

And how often have England found themselves in a desperate situation in a tournament when all they need is someone who can finish?

Neville was speaking on April 4, at half-time as United trailed Brighton 1-0 at Old Trafford. At that point, Greenwood had scored only twice in 27 matches.

But the 83rd-minute winner he would score that afternoon sparked a purple patch that has underlined Neville's point.

Until then it had indeed been a hugely underwhelming season for Greenwood. After the 17 goals of his impressive breakthrough 2019-20 campaign, expectations were high and he hadn't matched them.

The campaign started in controversial fashion when he and Foden were sent home for inviting two Icelandic girls into the team hotel hours after his senior England debut, a breach of the strict Covid bubble.

( © Provided by Daily Mail ( Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wearing a suit and tie: ( © Provided by Daily Mail (

Man United fixtures

Thursday Liverpool (H)

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May 18 Fulham (H)

May 23 Wolves (A)

May 26 Villarreal (Gdańsk)

UEFA Europa League final

Despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handing Greenwood regular starts in the Premier League and the Champions League, the goals didn't flow as everyone hoped.

But all that is a distant memory and a case for inclusion in the England squad that was pretty baseless a few months ago is now very persuasive indeed.

He made history at the weekend, overtaking Wayne Rooney as United's most prolific teenage goalscorer in the Premier League.

'I'll try and keep scoring goals so no one else can come and break the record in the future!', Greenwood, who turns 20 on October 1, said afterwards.

It speaks of an ambitious young player and he could have the first major medal of his career when United play Villarreal in the Europa League final on May 26.

There is something reminiscent of Solskjaer in Greenwood's finishing - a mastery of scoring angles and space exploitation - and United's manager's is the perfect mentor.

'He is something special, the kid turns a game around in one split second,' Solskjaer said after the Villa game on Sunday.

'We are delighted he is back to his goalscoring best and he is learning more and more the other bits as well.'

That learning process will surely continue at Euro 2020 in the summer. Greenwood's form simply can't be ignored.

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