Mason Greenwood has staked his claim to become the long-term number nine for Manchester United after scoring a late winner against Brighton at Old Trafford.
The Seagulls took the lead in the first half when former academy star Danny Welbeck lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the penalty area and was able to head past Dean Henderson at the second attempt. United struggled to create anything of note for a while, although Greenwood did hit the post early on and it wasn’t until the hour mark where they’d get back into the game.
Bruno Fernandes latched on to a loose ball and fed Marcus Rashford, who slotted past the goalkeeper as United pulled it back before Fernandes crossed for Paul Pogba to volley back across goal and Greenwood latched on to a header to grab all three points.
It was exactly the type of goal that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been trying to coach Anthony Martial and Rashford to score over the last two years and exactly the type of goal that Edinson Cavani was brought in to score when he signed last summer.
It was a great sign of progress in his development, with the England international grabbing only his sixth goal in a campaign where he has mostly been shunted out to the right wing.
But with news that Anthony Martial is likely to miss the rest of the season after picking up a knee injury on international duty, it means the 19-year-old could get himself a run as the central striker between now and the end of the season.
The obvious option is Cavani to take the leading role, but the Uruguayan is an interesting case right now. He himself has only scored seven goals this season and has performed better coming off the bench than when he’s started games. His physical attributes aren’t as sharp as they were during his prime, obviously, but his movement is also not as great as it once was.
Add to that his all-round game is iffy at best, with his link up play absolutely appalling and his passing is often very wayward, United struggle to sustain attacks when he needs to play with his back to goal.
Greenwood has a better overall game than Cavani does right now and since bulking up physically, he is much more comfortable now than he was last season when it comes to duels against defenders. He is more mobile, able to go both ways and ultimately is just a much better option right now.
He came through the academy as a number nine who scored goals relentlessly, even as he went through the age groups and it’s clear that he is more comfortable in central areas than out wide where his space is marginalised.
He’s never going to be able to learn how to play as a striker in the first-team without playing there and there seems to be no better time than now. With Cavani unlikely to stay beyond this season now after claims that he wants to return to South America, there is no point shoehorning him into the side.
It’s the perfect opportunity to give Greenwood a run in the side in his best position, with United now 11 points clear of fifth place and with a favourable draw in the Europa League quarter-finals against Granada.
Put the future of the club in the spotlight now and if Greenwood can perform then it could change the club’s transfer plans for the better.