Greenwood and Grealish decision may have answered Man United transfer question

There are plenty of similarities between Gareth Southgate and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It is not just their affable nature, the charisma and likability that is evident every time they speak; the two share plenty in common in terms of footballing philosophies too. Both, with England and Manchester United respectively, have been tasked with turning around a great football institution that was in the doldrums. Both, despite fierce criticism, have largely proven the doubters wrong. It would be forgiven, therefore, if Solskjaer took his lead from Southgate, whose achievements in taking the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals — ending their penalty curse and earning a best finish since 1990 — are unarguable. But in the cases of Mason Greenwood and Jack Grealish, the England boss appears to have recognised what Solskjaer spotted first. It was way back in March 2019 that Solskjaer first declared “Mason Greenwood is a player for me” at a press conference, having watched the teenage striker net another goal for the United Under-23s and having long been told of the player’s talents by United youth coaches. In that same month, he handed Greenwood a senior debut in the pressure cooker environment of the Champions League last 16 second leg at Paris Saint-Germain, and two months later the forward was rewarded with a debut first team start in the season’s finale against Cardiff. Back then, Greenwood was not even in the England Under-21 set up. But after a sensational full breakthrough season in which he bagged 17 goals for the United first team, Southgate can no longer ignore him. The make-up of the England squad to take on Denmark and Iceland next month hit the headlines on Tuesday for a number of reasons, not least the initial inclusion of Harry Maguire before his guilty verdict in Greece came to light. Southgate had no choice but to then withdraw Maguire’s selection, though the United captain continues to protest his innocence and intends to appeal. Yet it was the absence of two playmakers previously on United’s transfer radar that perhaps told Solskjaer more than anything else. There was no place for either Jack Grealish or James Maddison in the 24-man squad, as the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Phil Foden and Mason Mount were preferred. Southgate actually named Greenwood as the main reason why Aston Villa skipper Grealish had not made the cut. “With Jack [Grealish], the simple answer is Mason Greenwood,” said the England boss, explaining his selections. “He’s competing in my view against Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling. I know Villa have played him as an eight but I don’t see him in that role for us.” Have your say on United’s summer transfers here: It is clear, then, that Southgate regards Grealish as a forward rather than an advanced midfielder and in fairness that’s where the 24-year-old has played for Villa in the past season. And given there is a chance that three of the four players Southgate mentioned could be on United’s books next season — if they can land Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund — perhaps Solskjaer has good reason to cool interest in Grealish, who has been a bona fide target. Five forwards with first team credentials may be one option too many for United next season; four would be the ideal number. In terms of midfielders, someone like Ajax’s Donny van de Beek may be more fitting than Grealish to add depth and competition to the position currently occupied by Bruno Fernandes. With no new additions as yet, it is turning into a frustrating summer for United fans, and many just want a signing of any kind. But Solskjaer, like Southgate, must pick and choose carefully and settle on the right targets. Maybe Mason Greenwood has helped him decide that Jack Grealish might not be the right one.
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