It’s not often that football managers go out of their way to talk up young players who many contemporaries might be more minded to keep out of the spotlight.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has never held back when speaking of his admiration for Mason Greenwood, and a first Manchester United start for the 17-year-old against Cardiff City on Sunday has now been confirmed.
“In midfield, up front, we have got loads of goals in our team,” said Solskjaer of his team ahead of the trip to Huddersfield Town. “We’ve got youngsters coming through.
"Hopefully, we can see Mason before the end of the season, not now, as he’s injured, but hopefully in the last game against Cardiff he will get his injury sorted and he will be ready.”
We should not be surprised that the United boss is so keen to get Greenwood involved given the events of this season. The Bradford-born attacker has cut a swathe through every youth category in at the club since joining United’s development school in Halifax at the age of six.
He could still have been playing under-16s football in 2017-18 but was promoted to the under-18s midway through the campaign and went on to grab 17 goals in 21 appearances, including 16 in 17 starts.
In 2018-19, he has netted 30 goals in 29 games in total, including five in five in the UEFA Youth League. And his 22 strikes in 18 appearances for the club’s under-18s side included a stunning hat-trick to eliminate five-time back-to-back winners Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup in December.
Such performances saw him named on Goal's NxGn list of the top 50 teenagers in world football in March.
“Mason’s the match-winner it’s clear, you can see he’s going to get you goals and he’s always dangerous,” said under-18s boss Neil Ryan after the 4-3 win over Chelsea, before trying to quell some of the inevitable expectation.
“I think we’re a good club for making sure we quieten all that hype down because he’s still got a long way to go; let’s get it right. But he’s doing very, very well this year.
“We’ve got great staff who are looking after him on and off the pitch, and for ourselves as coaching staff it’s our jobs to make sure we get him to the next level.
"It’s going to be a challenge for him, but a great challenge and he’s had a great four or five months so far and we’ve got to keep working with him.”
Since then, Greenwood has gone on to bigger and better things.
He has made the step up to regular reserve team football with the under-23s, scoring three times in six games, and made a never-to-be-forgotten senior debut in the final minutes of United’s stunning Champions League triumph against Paris Saint-Germain in the Parc des Princes.
Late substitute appearances against Arsenal and West Ham also followed in the Premier League, but a first start is now on its way as early as Sunday. He does not seem the type to be too awestruck by the prospect.
His qualities are almost endless, being as natural a finisher on either foot as many experienced professionals would love to be.
His instincts in the final third are stand-out whether playing anywhere across the forward line, or as a No.10, as he did for much of his initial period with the under-18s last season.
The ability to go either way past a defender makes him a nightmare to deal with, and when he hits the left channel, his pace and confidence to take the ball to the left or right bring back memories of Thierry Henry in his Arsenal pomp.
Of course, at the age of just 17 there are still things he cannot do, but as the most promising star to come through United’s academy in recent years Greenwood is threatening to join names such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Paul Pogba in becoming a homegrown icon at Old Trafford in the years to come.
The true arrival of Mason Greenwood at senior level is just around the corner.