Despite his best efforts, Paul Newsham could barely get a moment’s peace on Saturday nights during the winter of 2008. As he watched television in his West Yorkshire home, his phone would buzz again, again, and again.
“That’ll be someone else ringing to see if Mason is playing tomorrow,” his wife Julia would say.
More often than not she was right.
“Loads of scouts would ring me up about him every Saturday,” Newsham says. “I used to get phone calls from Huddersfield, Blackburn, Leeds, Man United . . . all of them.”
The Mason that Newsham is referring to is Mason Greenwood, the Manchester United forward, who will make his first Wembley appearance for the club tomorrow in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
The fact that Greenwood has become a revelation, scoring four goals in his past six matches, has not come as a surprise to Newsham, who coached the 18-year-old at his first club, Idle FC.
Greenwood’s dad, Andrew, knew another of the coaches at the club, which bears the name of the village in which they are based near Bradford, and made the 15-minute journey from their home in Wibsey for a training session on a Tuesday night with the under-7s.
Greenwood was short and shy, but Newsham knew he was talented and decided to give him his debut the Sunday after his sixth birthday in an away match against Silsden Football and Cricket Club.
He was a year younger than his team-mates and was nowhere as physically robust, but Greenwood did not disappoint in the seven-a-side match.
“We won 10-1 and Mason got all ten goals,” Newsham said.
“Once your team got to ten back in those days you had to stop the game because it wasn’t nice for the opposition, so I kept having to take him off.
“Every time he came off he stood at the side of me, looked up and said, ‘Paul, can I go back on the pitch?’ So I would send him back on and he would score again. He was tiny but no one could lay a glove on him. That’s what made him so special.”
It was not the only match in which Greenwood would score a hatful.
“There were a lot of matches where he scored lots of goals,” Jack Burnell, who played up front alongside Greenwood during his one season at Idle, said. “There were quite a few times where he left us speechless.”
As 2008 drew to a close, Newsham began fielding more and more calls from scouts eager to know if Greenwood was playing that weekend.
Apperley Bridge Playing Fields is about half an hour’s drive from where Greenwood made his debut. The place is nothing special. It is a standard, council-run park with two undulating pitches. The white goal frames have in part rusted and a dilapidated changing room is situated nearby.
The park is significant, however, as it was here that United made their move for Greenwood after he had impressed in Idle’s annual invitational tournament involving all the youth teams in the local area.
A scout spoke to Marcus Strudwick, the Idle chairman, and then asked Greenwood’s dad if his son would like to train at United’s development centre in Halifax, one of 25 such facilities dotted around the north of England. The answer was a resounding yes. United handed Strudwick a £600 cheque, and the boy began the journey that would ultimately lead to him becoming a first-team star.
“With hindsight, I should have taken a picture of the cheque,” Strudwick said. “The money went towards buying new kits, equipment and setting up a new team.”
Several aspects of Greenwood’s game impressed the United scout. His pace was his most startling attribute. That runs in the Greenwood genes. His sister, Ashton, received a sports scholarship at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her personal best over 100m is 12.7 seconds.
United also liked how Greenwood could play with both feet. He has his dad to thank for that attribute. Andrew, an engineer who goes to United games if he can get a shift off, is not a pushy parent, but he would always encourage Greenwood to use both feet.
“If you’re doing something on your right foot, make sure you can do it with your left,” he would say to his son when they went for a kickabout in Wibsey Park.
Greenwood’s dad, and his mother Melanie, tried their best to keep their son’s feet on the ground, and it worked. “His family were great with him,” Newsham said.
It is a character trait that remains true in Greenwood today. He has bought a Mercedes, but you will not find him wearing a bling watch at Carrington, the United training centre. He also still lives with his parents in their home near Huddersfield.
Greenwood has other talents too — he won a modelling competition at the age of four — but his main passion has always been football. He would turn up 20 minutes early to practise at the development centre and kick a ball against a bin — with his left and right feet, of course — while waiting for his team-mates.
During the summer holidays, aged seven, he would head with his dad to Wibsey Park where, with a United shirt on his back, he would run rings around boys much older than him, such as Shaquille Jones.
“He was around seven years old, and I was 14, but there were lads who were 16 and he was better than them as well,” Jones, from Bradford, remembers.
“We tried to foul him to get the ball back but he just skipped passed us. The ball was always stuck to his feet and his agility was unreal.”
Greenwood officially signed for United at the age of nine. He started spending some time at Carrington, where the first-team train. The emphasis was always on ball work and enjoying the game, rather than tactics.
United gave Greenwood a scholarship, aged 14. He left Appleton Academy in Wibsey and started studying at Ashton-on-Mersey, the school in Sale where United send their scholars.
Two years later, Greenwood’s career took off. Under the guidance of Kieran McKenna, now a first-team coach at the club, Greenwood topped the scoring charts in the Under-18 Premier League (north) with 16 goals in 17 matches. The moment that academy staff were sure Greenwood was destined for the first team was when the striker, still 16, won the player of the tournament award at the 2018 International Cor Groenewegen Tournament, an under-19 event open to teams from across Europe, which United won.
The international stage did not faze Greenwood either. Also in 2018, he scored the best goal of the Limoges tournament, a four-team under-18 competition which England won after defeating Holland, France and Russia.
“He scored a variety of goals — tap-ins but also the more spectacular ones when he shot from outside the box with either foot,” Neil Dewsnip, the former England Under-18 coach who is now Plymouth Argyle’s director of football, said.
“He had great power and a very quick backlift so the goalkeeper is not able to get set. He was a defender’s worst nightmare.”
Greenwood made his first appearance for the senior United team against Club América in Phoenix during José Mourinho’s final pre-season tour in the summer of 2018. It was the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, though, initially as interim manager in December 2018, that ensured Greenwood’s star would rise even further.
Solskjaer had known about Greenwood for some time. His son, Noah, had played alongside him for the United under-8 side when Solskjaer managed the reserves.
A couple of days before Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, Greenwood scored a hat-trick when United knocked the holders, Chelsea, out of the FA Youth Cup. Solskjaer watched footage of the treble and immediately called Greenwood up from the under-23 side.
Less than two years later, Greenwood has become an established first-team player and is now on the radar of Gareth Southgate, who is considering calling him up for England’s Nations League matches against Iceland and Denmark in September.
When Greenwood signed his four-year contract last October, his dad asked United to shield his son from the limelight, and they have. BT Sport, Sky, and the BBC — among others — have had interview requests knocked back.
Greenwood looks like a man now — he bulked up during the lockdown — but he is still only 18 and the club understandably want to protect the striker, who is a shy character. Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford have taken Greenwood under their wing. The former often makes sure that the teenager is aware what time team meetings are. McKenna is playing a key role in nurturing Greenwood’s talent. He often takes him for one-to-one sessions.
Greenwood loses his shyness in group sessions and in matches to the extent that he will not hesitate to call out an older, more established player if he receives a poor pass from them. One of the reasons that Solskjaer likes Greenwood so much is that he is a good listener. Some young players are easily distracted when talking to the coaching staff but Greenwood is not one of them.
Greenwood had the same attitude when he used to play under Newsham 12 years ago. “He were no bother at all,” Newsham said before recalling one final memory from their time together.
“I always remember that when we arrived at the ground, the opposition kids and manager would come straight up to me and ask, ‘Is Mason playing today?’ If he was, they’d groan.”
Chelsea will probably feel the same if Greenwood’s name is on the teamsheet tomorrow evening.
Deleted: 'indonesian wizard'
May 10, 2018 18:27:15 GMT
WhatsTheMata: Glad you think it's funny. When we get fucked around by the spells you just deleted you will take me seriously
May 19, 2018 11:57:48 GMT
No.7: Can this thread be unlocked or is it too early? not that i want Jose out now but i think were coming close to that time and want to hear peoples opinions on the subject.
Sept 20, 2018 10:15:25 GMT
cjjagzmoni: Pogba is a good lad minus the showboating..I think at Juventus he had Older players like Pirlo,Chiellini,Marchisio,Bonucci who shout and screams at him so he was more serious at Juve ,We dont have those type of leaders at United to caution him.
Nov 1, 2018 3:36:38 GMT
geo: Cardiff City - Huddersfield Town - Bournemouth - Newcastle United = 12 points. Back in the hunt. Come on.
Dec 19, 2018 17:55:18 GMT
geo: Job done as above - next step, stay unbeaten until we get to the PSG game.
Jan 3, 2019 23:17:42 GMT
theedge: Just discovered this forum. I live in Canada so don't get to many games, but I get to watch all the games live. Last 2 games attended in person: Europa League Final in Stockholm 2017, FA Cup Final 2016. Won the last 11 I've been to. I need to go more often
Apr 1, 2019 23:25:01 GMT
simes: Kazakhstan....well blow me down...been there many a time, not so bad a journey. FC Astana are not a bad outfit, gave Celtic a good run, and the National side beat Scotland. What do you reckon a walk over? BTW its easy to get to, I always use Air Astana.
Aug 30, 2019 14:11:59 GMT
snan1218: Hi,I'm very new member,the Red Devil from Malaysia.
Oct 10, 2019 9:16:40 GMT
shah: Hi i am shah been united fan from birec
Jan 24, 2020 8:33:02 GMT