MASON GREENWOOD is here to stay for Manchester United from now on – in Europe and in the Premier League.
The 17-year-old was thrown in for his second senior start for the club after making his debut on the final day of last season.
But unlike in that chastening defeat to Cardiff, Greenwood was able to flourish this time round as he assumed responsibility for leading United’s best moments.
Marcus Rashford may have been in the side as the ‘old’ head to nurture the young pretenders in Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong.
But it was the teenager from Bradford who was the shining light in a game which saw United make harder work than they should have done against the minnows from Kazakhstan.
While Chong looked like a kid in a man’s game, too lightweight to impose himself to any effect, Greenwood looked like he belonged out there on the Old Trafford pitch.
Right from the off he was taking the ball on the half-turn, trying to tease his markers out of position and exploiting them in the space behind.
He was showing for the ball along with fellow freshman Gomes – but as the game wore on it was Greenwood who grew while his team-mate faded out.
There was a flash of his finishing instinct early on, as he stepped inside on his left foot and unleashed a left-footed effort which whistled past the far post.
And then there was the crowning moment of his first senior goal for United, a swivel of the hips to beat his man on the outside before firing through the keeper’s legs to score the winner.
But it wasn’t just the goal. There was more.
Plenty more of the intelligent play linking up with his team-mates, penetrating runs and making the right decisions when to lay the ball off.
It would be easy to keep him for these Europa League nights, give him the flat tracks to bully and deliver against sub-standard opponents.
But Greenwood is better than that, already. He can be trusted to make an impact in the Premier League and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to be brave going forward.
No-one is saying he should lead the line alone every week – but he should now be a fixture on Premier League matchdays.
United will benefit if he’s given that chance.