Greenwood should be United’s main man: Neil Humphreys
Teen has earned his place with 3 goals in 3 games, shouldn't make way for Ronaldo
Sir Alex Ferguson's reported role in convincing Cristiano Ronaldo to rejoin Manchester United is certainly ironic.
In his heyday, Ferguson rarely signed ageing megastars. He sold them. He won everything with kids. He was a true disciple of the fabled United way.
From Duncan Edwards to Mason Greenwood and dozens in between, the Red Devils have traditionally been in the teen sensation-hunting business. They either scouted them (George Best) or they groomed them (the class of 92).
What Ferguson rarely did was shop among the reduced items or those closing in on their use-by date.
Of course, Ronaldo is neither cheap nor out-of-date. There is no downside to his return, except maybe one. Greenwood should be United's main man.
In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's eagerness to reiterate his "old boy" understanding of the United way, he might wonder if he's contradicting himself already.
After a lucky 1-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the manager gushed over Ronaldo's impending arrival, suggesting that a striker of such an iconic stature makes Solskjaer's job easy. Ronaldo practically picks himself.
And that's a problem for the unlucky Greenwood. Having scored three goals in three games, the 19-year-old staked a valid claim to remain in the starting XI, with or without Ronaldo.
That's actually the United way.
Ferguson often replaced household names with fresh faces to build new dynasties, selling David Beckham, for example, at the peak of Beckham-mania (it's unlikely Fergie lost any sleep flogging Paul Ince, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane either).
But the manager moved only if he was sure of the aces in the academy, aces like Greenwood.
The teenager's immaculate finish against Wolves demonstrated the kind of reliable ruthlessness that challenges for trophies. For 79 minutes, Greenwood had been a peripheral figure, struggling to get involved, thanks in no small part to a patchy midfield.
And then the ball broke his way and a chance to steal victory presented itself. Greenwood took it like he was messing around with mates back at the academy.
This prodigious talent has shades of them all: Best, Norman Whiteside, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and even Ronaldo. He's entirely unfazed in front of goal.
Solskjaer was clearly poised to build his attack around Greenwood this season. He had Jadon Sancho in support. Raphael Varane had bolstered defence and there were still rumours of a late bid for Declan Rice.
But Ronaldo woke up one day and decided he didn't fancy Juventus any more. Solskjaer has already suggested that Ronaldo picks himself for United. He essentially signed himself for United, too.
And that's terrific news for the club, the player and anyone with even a passing interest in the game or anything vaguely romantic. Ronaldo and the Red Devils, together again, what's not to like?
Juventus are clearly delighted. The Italians paid 100 million euros (S$158m) for a 33-year-old in a bid to win the Champions League. They didn't. Last season, they didn't even win the Serie A title. That wasn't Ronaldo's fault, which is arguably the point.
The Turin giants didn't need Ronaldo at the time, but they gladly took him. The Manchester giants don't need a 36-year-old Ronaldo now, but they'll happily take him, if only to save face with the noisy neighbours.
But Greenwood suddenly finds himself with a towering obstacle to clear. In theory, the pair could play together, but the Red Devils' uneven display against Wolves magnified their longstanding problems in midfield.
The central pivot isn't strong enough to accommodate both Greenwood and Ronaldo (let alone Sancho and Marcus Rashford, once fit). Something has got to give and logic - and sentimentality - suggests it's going to be Greenwood.
Ironically, he must hope that Solskjaer really is a student of the man that persuaded Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford.
Ferguson did occasionally acquire veterans as stop-gaps (Laurent Blanc and Henrik Larsson spring to mind), but it's hard to recall any blocking a promising kid's pathway.
The trouble is none of them were called Ronaldo and none were paid the £385,000-per-week (S$712,000) that the Portuguese striker is expected to collect, which leaves Solskjaer with the most intriguing of selection headaches.
United's quickest, sharpest finisher this season may not be one of the greatest footballers of all time. He might just be the other guy.
Greenwood has built a solid case to play leading man.
Ferguson would've given the kid a chance. He never allowed celebrity or sentiment to cloud his judgment.
It'll be fascinating to see if Solskjaer is brave enough to do the same.