Manchester United’s old youth coach Eric Harrison was a great educator. He was the man whose tough love made the Class of ’92 what they were.
They became household names on his watch but also, as Sir Alex Ferguson said at Harrison’s funeral last year, ‘good human beings’.
Nicky Butt was one of those who benefited from working with Harrison and now he’s the club’s head of first-team development.
I asked Butt a while back whether United had any kids I should keep an eye out for. He named Mason Greenwood. ‘One of the best we’ve ever seen,’ Butt told me.
Mason Greenwood has been described as the best youngster Manchester United has seen
Now we’re seeing why there was such excitement. United are a club who treat young players properly. They pride themselves on it.
That’s why we can be sure Greenwood is in good hands. They will be in his ear keeping him grounded.
I remember seeing Michael Owen break through, too. In fact I was on the pitch the day he made his Liverpool debut against Wimbledon and became the club’s youngest scorer at 17 years and 144 days.
That was in May 1997 but we’d heard long before that about this boy from the academy who was coming through the ranks.
Greenwood is in safe hands at Manchester United, who will keep the 18-year-old grounded
That’s what happens at clubs when they have a special talent on their hands: rumours go around. The only question is whether they can handle the step up. Owen did, and Greenwood is doing so, too.
With Owen, defenders would try to show him on to his left foot because they knew it was his weaker side. Keep the ball away from his right foot and maybe he won’t score.
But Greenwood doesn’t seem to have a weak side. Left foot, right foot, it doesn’t matter.
He likes a stepover but he doesn’t use them for the sake of looking flash. He uses them to unbalance defenders and gain half a yard because that’s all he needs to pull the trigger. The power he generates in his shots is a weapon.
Greenwood says he is left-footed but he appears to be comfortable with his right too
Greenwood is being used on the right wing by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at present but with his size and skillset, I see him as a future No 9.
That position belongs to Anthony Martial at the moment but there is plenty of time for Greenwood to make it his own.
Owen always had a good support system around him, from his family and those at the club. He was a sensible lad — he didn’t let anything distract him from football.
Greenwood is at the perfect club for his development, too. They will have people ensuring he is kept on the right track, just as the Class of ’92 were guided so expertly.
At 18 years old, Greenwood can go far, as long as he listens to those around him. Continue at this rate and he will walk into my Team of the Season next year.
No sympathy for self-destructive Watford
Watford brought this on themselves.
Even if there was a frank exchange between Nigel Pearson and owner Gino Pozzo, you don’t sack your manager with two games to go and your Premier League status on the line.
The Hornets lost our sympathy when they did that. Pearson gave them a fighting chance.
Watford were relegated from the Premier League just days after sacking boss Nigel Pearson
That 3-0 win over Liverpool at Vicarage Road in February was one of the results of the season. They were bottom when Pearson took over and that victory lifted them out of the relegation zone.
But they didn’t treat their managers with respect and they paid the ultimate price.
They got what they deserved and now they’re a Championship club.
Lampard made the ridiculous look easy
Aa the start of the season, you may have heard me say this on Sky Sports: ‘If you think Frank Lampard should finish in the top four and win a cup, then you’re deluded.’ I stand by that statement now.
Nobody should have been expecting this. But the fact that Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League and are in the FA Cup final shows what a remarkable job Lampard has done.
Frank Lampard finished in the top-four during his debut Premier League season at Chelsea
He’s become the first English boss to reach Europe’s elite competition since his uncle, and my dad, took Tottenham there in 2010.
Lampard took over when there was a transfer embargo and Eden Hazard had been sold to Real Madrid. He inherited a player in Christian Pulisic he didn’t know much about.
Yet look at where Chelsea are now. Lampard clearly belongs at the top level. These are exciting times for everybody at Stamford Bridge.
Bournemouth face summer of being picked apart
I love Bournemouth. It’s where I grew up and spent my formative years.
But now they’re out of the Premier League and I fear for my former club.
Callum Wilson is bound to be sold this summer. Nathan Ake may leave, too, while I’m sure someone will be looking to snap up David Brooks. Can they make a comeback from the Championship?
It was a miracle when Eddie Howe did it the first time and it would take another for them to return.
Henderson deserved award more than De Bruyne
The outcome of the FWA Footballer of the Year sparked some debate.
Plenty pointed out Kevin De Bruyne is more talented with a ball at his feet than Jordan Henderson.
But Henderson does so much more off the pitch. To be captain of a club such as Liverpool is a huge responsibility — you have to put your personal problems aside and help others — and he has handled all of that beautifully.
Jordan Henderson was named Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year this week