Last season, Mason Greenwood could do no wrong. The teenage forward who bagged a goal seemingly every game at the youth level was touted to be the best prospect to emerge out of Manchester United's famed academy since Paul Pogba and lived up to his hype in his full debut campaign, scoring 17 goals in 49 matches, just six shy of club topscorer Anthony Martial's tally of 23.
Greenwood's ability to finish with either foot and score goals from near-impossible angles make him one of the deadliest teenage forwards in Europe, and following his stellar first full season, the youngster was handed Manchester United's famed #11 jersey, donned by the club's highest appearance maker and one of the most decorated footballers in history, Ryan Giggs.
But things haven’t panned out the way Greenwood or Manchester United would have expected.
The 19-year-old made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he, along with Manchester City's teenage starlet Phil Foden, invited a couple of girls to their hotel rooms while on international duty, breaking quarantine protocol, which prompted coach Gareth Southgate to send them back home.
Greenwood and Foden were heavily chastised by the English media, but both seemingly weathered the storm with good performances for their respective clubs. However, the Manchester United star has been caught up in another controversy this past week, prolonging his rough spell since the start of the season.
Greenwood was absent from Manchester United's 3-1 victory over Everton, with the club citing injury as the reason but reports suggest that the 19-year-old was dropped from the side owing to his lack on intensity in training, which prompted coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to drop him from the squad.
The youngster has reportedly sleeping late and performing sluggishly in training, raising concerns about his commitment to the game. All these are pretty reminiscent of another Manchester United academy superstar who burst onto to the scene and was handed the #11 jersey only to flame out spectacularly in just a couple of seasons.
Adnan Januzaj, who was sensational under David Moyes, was heavily criticised and often left out of the matchday squad by subsequent manager Louis Van Gaal, who eventually decided to loan him out to Borussia Dortmund.
In Germany, then-Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel was vocal about Januzaj's lack of effort in understanding his tactical demands and the German giants decided to end Januzaj’s loan spell just two months into the six-month deal. Januzaj's performance continued to dwindle and new coach Jose Mourinho decided to ship him to Real Sociedad, where he continues to ply his trade to this day.
Januzaj’s spectacular rise and sensational drop came due to his lack of discipline off the field and in training and Greenwood is trending in the same direction as Belgian winger.
Solskjaer will continue to back Greenwood and give him leeway for as long as he shows improvement, but in his time as Manchester United manager, the Norwegian has already shown that no player is too big to be axed for the betterment of the team and he wouldn’t hesitate to ship Greenwood to football purgatory like Mourinho did with Januzaj.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Oli Scarff