Solskjaer hails ‘natural footballer’ Greenwood after Europa League brace

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned man-of-the-match Mason Greenwood in the same breath as a young Wayne Rooney following the teenager’s stunning Europa League double for Manchester United.

With progress to the knockout phase already assured, the Reds overcame a sloppy start against AZ Alkmaar to secure a thumping win that sealed top spot in Group L and a place among the top seeds in Monday’s draw.

Greenwood was the star of the show at Old Trafford, where his fine, low strike swiftly followed Ashley Young’s second-half opener.

The 18-year-old won the penalty converted by Juan Mata, before wrapping up a comprehensive 4-0 win with another stunning strike, becoming the youngest player to score a brace for United in major European competition.

“I’ve probably said it all before, so it’s nothing new – that’s what he does,” former striker Solskjaer said of Greenwood.

“And tomorrow he’ll probably go in training and score a few more. He’s always done it. That’s just natural for him.

“He’s a natural footballer but the closer he gets to goal, the more dangerous he is.

“Right foot, left foot – nightmare probably for defenders. He needs to develop his heading then he can be a proper striker.”

Asked if he had seen anyone as good at the same age as Greenwood, who only turned 18 in October, Solskjaer said: “I’ve seen a few good ones, yeah.

“I’ve played with Wazza myself. Obviously natural finishing, he’s one of the best I’ve seen.”

Greenwood improved his goal tally to six goals in all competitions for Manchester United
Greenwood improved his goal tally to six goals in all competitions for Manchester United

Solskjaer was quick to point out Greenwood is a different type of player to Rooney, but just like United’s all-time top scorer his potential was clear long before he turned 18.

“There was never any question of him going on loan,” the Norwegian said.

“That decision was made early on in pre-season, or even towards end of last season.

“I knew we had got a top talent there and I think this club is the best at recognising that and, for me, developing talent like this. There’s no better place for him to be than here.”

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Solskjaer praised Greenwood throughout United’s tour of Australia and Asia, while his six-goal haul for the side this season underlined his quality – albeit just one of those have so far come in the Premier League.

“He played against Tottenham and he was class,” he said. “I’m not afraid of playing him in the Premier League. Not at all.

“But it’s about sharing the minutes and finding the right minutes for him. Of course he is ready to play in the Premier League.”

Juan Mata also got on the scoresheet at Old Trafford
Juan Mata also got on the scoresheet at Old Trafford

Solskjaer joked that Lincoln would not need to worry about Greenwood in Friday’s FA Youth Cup tie having underlined his quality on a night that United started so poorly.

“There wasn’t any cups flying or anything,” he said of the half-time team talk.

“We just had to get the troops together and get back to what we’re good at – more aggressive, more urgency without the ball, more composure on the ball.

“We were slow off the ball first half, we were too rash with the ball, just giving the ball away.”