(Reuters) – Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood’s first senior goal in the 1-0 Europa League win over Astana is early proof that the club were right to back the teenager after the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.
Supporters had questioned United for failing to bring in replacements after Lukaku signed for Inter Milan last month and Sanchez followed the striker to the Serie A side on loan.
Solskjaer kept faith in academy graduate Greenwood and the 17-year-old became the first United player born in the 2000s to score a senior goal.
“For me it was the right decision,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“Because for the club and him (Greenwood), he’s going to be important this season. He’s not played a lot so far but he’ll get his minutes and he’ll grow and develop.
“We always know that in and around the box he’s one of the best finishers we’ve got. If you want to make it as a United player you have to handle the fans. Mason won us the game so we’re pleased for him.”
United’s glory years under former boss Alex Ferguson were built on a regular supply of talent from their youth system and Solskjaer is following a similar path to help the fallen giants become dominant again.
The Norwegian has not shied away from giving young players game time and continued his policy against the Kazakh champions with teenagers Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong also making their full debuts.
But it was Greenwood who stole the show and Marcus Rashford, another prodigy cementing his place in the squad, backed his strike partner to grow in stature.
“He’s been doing well since he joined the first team and there’s 100% more to come from him. I’m sure he’s excited and everyone else is as well,” the 21-year-old Rashford said.
“It’s not a surprise when the young ones come on and do well, because of their work ethic. They all keep improving since they’ve come up with us.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ian Ransom)