“I think we have found one.”
That is what Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary former Manchester United boss, is claimed to have told people about Mason Greenwood four years ago.
He’s still a long way off getting to the heights the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes reached but the young striker has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in world football.
Over the past month, he has produced fantastic displays against Brighton, Bournemouth and Aston Villa to prove he has all the tools needed.
Another goal against Aston Villa on Thursday night took his tally to the season to a remarkable 16 goals in all competitions.
A reminder for you that he is still only 18.
Fergie wasn’t the first person to see that Greenwood would become something special – former Manchester United coach Mark Senior revealed the story of how he was blown away by a then six-year-old Greenwood when he was playing for Bradford-based side Idle Juniors.
Senior said: “Scouts saw him when he wasn’t even playing; they were watching another player that day.
“Mason just wanted to join a local team in Bradford called Idle Juniors, but he wasn’t old enough, so he was kicking a ball around on the side of the pitch, waiting for his sixth birthday.
“As soon as he was six, we made sure we had someone to watch his first game.
“The team he was playing for had never won a game, and I am not sure they had even scored a goal. Then, Mason scored 16 on his debut and they won 16-1. A six-year-old made the local newspaper!”
Needless to say Greenwood was invited to United’s development centre in Halifax but he already made an impact before walking through its doors.
Senior added: “He came to our development centre the night his goals from the weekend had made the local newspaper.
“I got there a little bit early and Mason was already there in the car park smashing balls against the wall, with both feet. It was incredible.
“I asked him, ‘So, are you this Mason who scored 16 goals at the weekend? Was it a bit easy for you?’ He looked at me and said, ‘If it weren’t for me, we would have lost 1-0.’
“He went straight into the development centre in Huddersfield, into the age group above his own. Every single club quickly got wind of Mason, so then they were all after him.”
Greenwood progressed nicely through the academy over the years and made his competitive debut for the first team in March 2019, coming on in the final few minutes of their memorable Champions League triumph over Paris Saint-Germain. He then became United’s youngest ever Premier League starter in their final match of 2018/19, aged 17 years and 223 days old.
This season has undoubtedly been Greenwood’s breakthrough, the forward scoring 16 goals and providing five assists in all competitions.
His strike at Brighton at the end of June saw him equal a record last set by Wayne Rooney of scoring six Premier League goals while being aged 18 or under.
Only Brian Kidd, George Best and Wayne Rooney scored more goals as teenagers in a single season season for United and Greenwood is not just one of the total those three Red Devils legends achieved (17).
Even when he hasn’t been playing, Greenwood has been productive, cutting a muscly figure after the restart having undergone a stunning body transformation during the season’s stoppage.
He’s earned plenty of plaudits in his short career and talkSPORT.com has gathered some standout quotes about United’s rising star.
The former Chelsea defender and Sports Bar host reckons Greenwood could prove to be the greatest player Manchester United have ever produced.
“He is looking more and more like a player that you think, ‘wow’,” he declared.
“Every game I see, he gets better and better and better.
“He is better than Marcus Rashford, he will be better than David Beckham, he will be better than Ryan Giggs.
“We are looking at the best academy player since George Best
“Of course it’s early days but from what I have seen from this young man, the composure, the ability to take both feet, the way he changes direction
“Young players have this air of unbelievable confidence and he will know one day what failure does feel like because he is hasn’t tasted it yet. But wow, he is something else
“We talk about Phil Foden. He could be better than Foden.
“Imagine what he’ll be like in five years? He could be the best Man United have ever produced.”
After Greenwood’s goal against Brighton the Red Devils legend cooed: “It’s getting to the point now where it will be impossible to leave this lad out.
“He reminds me so much of Robin van Persie when he cuts in on that left foot off that right side. The composure, the technique.
“He’s a real talent, now delivering – week in, week out.”
Robin van Persie
He said of Greenwood in December: “I think he will be very good because during every game he tries to copy me.”
“My style, my technique, my left foot, my way of finishing… so, I’m sure he will end up well.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
After the win over Bournemouth, the Man United boss said: “Great talent, great finisher and he’s learning more and more. Growing more and more and getting better with his decisions on and off the pitch.
“He’s an exceptional finisher. He can score right foot or left foot and as I said before if he can just learn how to head a ball he will be a complete striker.”
When asked if he could become a key player for England in the future, Solskajer said: “If he keeps on developing. We will do our best to develop him.
“I’m just worried about him playing for Man United and not England. There might be some Norwegian blood in there you never know!”
He added: “He’s 18 and of course he will get better. He is a natural footballer and has been in the academy since he was a little boy. His dad showed me a picture of us together when he was seven.
“He knows we believe in him. You cannot leave players out when they score goals.”
“He’s a fantastic player,” Rashford said of his teammate. “I’ve watched him before he got to the first team – it was never a matter of if he was going to play with us, it was just when. When can we get him involved?
“Ole [Gunnar Solskjær] has done a terrific job with him. First of all, he put him in the squad and brought him on against PSG [in last season’s Champions League last-16 win] and that for a player, as a first step, it’s huge and it shows that the manager had confidence in him. You’ve got no reason not to have confidence in a player like Mason
“But, for me, I just tell him to keep doing what he’s doing because what he does is score goals, so he doesn’t need to do anything else. You know, forget everything whatever people are doing outside, whether it’s praise or negativity.
“He’s done very well for the whole season. It’s not just these bits he’s been scoring goals. He’s been working hard for the team and doing the dirty work, you know the unseen work. He does it so he deserves all the credit that he gets.”
In November, Scholes said: “He calms himself down, he takes a touch. Marcus [Rashford] is capable of brilliant things and probably a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer.
“I think he lacks that little bit of composure. I think Mason will eventually be a better goalscorer than Marcus.
“But they both bring real quality to the team in forward areas which we’ve been lacking.”
The World Cup winner said of his teammate after the win over Villa in July: “I enjoy this kid in training and in the game.
“I will keep pushing him to be at the top. He has so much to do and can do even more.
“What he is doing right now, he is showing he can play in this team.”
“You know the difference between Greenwood compared to Martial and Rashford is that Greenwood is a natural, ruthless finisher.
“You see the stepovers there, he shoots between his [the defender’s] legs like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to do.
“I think this kid’s got a massive future. I think he has everything.
“He plays a little Robin van Persie like in terms of his style. His legs are similar, the way he graces the field. His composure and finishing is as good as anything at that club.”