Old Trafford noticeably rose as one after 62 minutes on Wednesday night, at the sight of young Mason Greenwood entering the action at a time when a goal was desperately needed.
The supporters’ ovation for our precociously gifted teenager was a massive one and his entrance provided an obvious boost to the noise levels, as well as the team’s attacking momentum on the pitch.
West Ham were 1-0 up after scoring a first-half goal against the run of play via Manuel Lanzini and, at the time of Greenwood’s introduction, United had registered 16 shots at goal to the Hammers’ four.
The much-changed Reds were controlling the game and working hard to find a breakthrough against a stubborn Hammers defence, seemingly intent on holding onto their slender advantage.
A lethal finisher was required and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called for his young apprentice, Mason, who has impressed so many already this season – not only by scoring three Premier League goals in August, but also with his mature and more rounded performances around the pitch.
Almost immediately, the 19-year was in the thick of the action with a shot that was saved by Alphonse Areola and, seconds later, his pass led to Jesse Lingard hitting the target as well. His movement was purposeful and those trademark stepovers left the Hammers in a spin.
On 80 minutes, after an outstanding piece of defending from fellow replacement Bruno Fernandes, Greenwood twice beat his man on the wing, got to the byline and almost beat Areola with another low shot. Another strike from 20 yards followed quickly afterwards, as our no.11 tried desperately to equalise.
Unfortunately, Greenwood and United could not find an all-important leveller and subsequently exited the cup, yet there is no mistaking the quality that our flourishing no.11 added to the game.
The stats show he had two shots and created three chances, however I felt the biggest impact was the lift he provided to everybody inside the stadium, on and off the pitch. It felt talismanic.
It would be all too easy to get carried away with Greenwood’s talent and we must remember he is still a teenager who needs time to develop, so let’s just enjoy the journey of watching him shine.
In our latest edition of UTD Unscripted, the popular long-read series, assistant coach Kieran McKenna provides his forensic account of Greenwood’s impressive rise through the Academy and highlights how the striker is continually working hard to maximise his immeasurable potential.
“He’s still very young,” says McKenna. “He’s got a long way ahead of him, he’s got a lot to learn and he knows that. His talent has been clear from day one and he’s also shown a lot of mental strength and willingness to get to where he is. But it’s early days in his career.
“There have been plenty of players down the years who have shone brightly at 18, 19, 20 and maybe not gone on to achieve what they could have achieved,” continues Kieran. “Mason has to be lucky, hopefully stay injury free, stay level-headed, learn the right lessons, be consistent with his work every day, be consistent with his application.
“What comes in the future is impossible to tell, but he’s giving himself the best chance and doing the right things. If he keeps doing all those things, we think he’s got a really good chance to play here for a number of years and hopefully win trophies and be successful.”
Greenwood is expected to feature again on Saturday when United host Aston Villa in the Premier League, in a 12:30 BST kick-off at Old Trafford.
Given his current form and standing in the squad, it would not be a surprise to see him back in the starting XI.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manchester United Football Club.