Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has conceded Mason Greenwood is a player he would ‘love’ to select from the start more often – but he has to earn it.
The young striker was omitted from Rangnick’s first starting eleven in charge of the Red Devils, though was eventually brought on just after the hour mark.
Greenwood immediately made an impact on proceedings, calmly assisting the much-maligned Fred for the only goal of the game despite being harried by a number of Crystal Palace defenders.
Given Rangnick is thought to favour a 4-2-2-2 formation, Greenwood could find himself enjoying plenty of game time under the former RB Leipzig boss as he is more-suited to a central role rather than occupying the right-flank – as was often the case under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
However, Greenwood has been warned that despite the new manager adopting a style far more suited to his own, he will still have to fight for his place in the side.
“Mason [Greenwood] did so well at the start of the season,” said Rangnick.
“I think he scored three or four goals in the first three games, he’s a very gifted homegrown player and I would love to give him more game-time in the future.
“But, of course, he has to deserve his game-time in training and, therefore, it was good to have him on the bench and bring him on the pitch.”
Rangnick’s wording in his assessment of Greenwood is interesting, particularly the word ‘deserve’, as it allows room for speculation that the England international has potentially let his standards slip in recent weeks.
Earlier in the season, when goals were flying in at a rapid rate for the 20-year-old, he was the subject of praise from a man who knows all about finding the net for United.
Dimitar Berbatov discussed whether Greenwood’s first team prospects would be harmed by the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, telling Mirror Football: “I hope not, because I like Mason Greenwood. I think he is a natural finisher and I hope he can learn a lot from Ronaldo.
Ronaldo has adjusted his game now that he has got older. He is a more of a centre-forward now.
“But when he was younger he was left, right, cutting inside, shooting, and this is what Mason is doing at the moment and he’s very good at it.
“So I hope he can go and ask Ronaldo for advice and just observe; see how he prepares, how he trains, how he stays after training sessions to train on the free-kicks and this cutting into the box and shooting.
“And for the moment, Mason is deserving. Nobody is giving him anything, he is deserving what he is getting with his performances and his goals and I want to see him playing as much as possible.”
Three months down the line, Greenwood has seemingly taken a step back in his development, reduced to cameo appearances off the bench with less than half an hour to go.
Only those around Carrington will know if Rangnick’s decision to bench the youngster stems from a lack of effort on the forward’s part, but the German has left the door open for Greenwood to play his way back into a starting spot.