Teenager Greenwood rescues Man United in Everton draw

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood scores their first goal to equalize 1-1 during their Premier League match against Everton on Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Teenager Greenwood rescues Man United in Everton draw

  • The 18-year-old is the third youngest to score a Premier League goal at Old Trafford

MANCHESTER: Mason Greenwood came off the bench to rescue Manchester United as the teenage striker’s late equalizer secured a 1-1 draw against Everton on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side fell behind to Victor Lindelof’s controversial first half own-goal after United’s appeals for a foul on David de Gea were ignored by VAR.

But Greenwood, introduced in the second half, underlined his vast potential with a clinical strike 13 minutes from full time.

The 18-year-old is the third youngest player to score a Premier League goal at Old Trafford after former United forward Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.

Bradford-born Greenwood, a product of United’s youth academy, now has seven goals in his breakthrough season after netting twice in his previous appearance against Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday.

This was his second Premier League goal after his strike against Sheffield United in November and his rapid progress is a bright spot in a difficult season for Solskjaer’s sixth-place team.

It was fitting that Greenwood scored in the 4,000th senior match in succession in which at least one youth graduate was represented in United’s first team or matchday squad, an extraordinary record stretching back over nine decades.

After their impressive wins over Tottenham and Manchester City in their last two league games, United’s frustrating draw reaffirmed how much improvement is still needed under Solskjaer despite Greenwood’s ascent.

For Duncan Ferguson, Everton’s caretaker manager, this spirited performance built on the momentum from last weekend’s win over Chelsea.

Hit by injuries and illness, Everton avoided losing for the seventh time in their last eight away league matches.

Another of United’s homegrown products should have opened the scoring within 20 seconds when Fred’s burst into the Everton area ended with Jesse Lingard swivelling onto the loose ball and shooting wide from 10 yards.

Daniel James’ blistering pace was on full display when the winger raced clear for a low drive that flashed wide of the far post, prompting an angry exchange between Everton keeper Jordan Pickford and team-mate Lucas Digne about who was to blame for the break.

Marcus Rashford tested Pickford with a swerving free kick, but United — at their best when counter-attacking — were too often forced into slow build-up play that was easy for Everton’s well-drilled defense to stifle.

United were losing their grip and it was Everton who took the lead in bizarre fashion in the 36th minute.

When Leighton Baines sent over an inswinging corner, De Gea came and missed as he tried to punch clear, with the ball bouncing off Lindelof into his own net.

United protested that Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin had fouled De Gea by putting an arm across his face, but although the goal was reviewed by VAR it was allowed to stand.

The farcical goal meant United had failed to keep a clean sheet in 12 consecutive top-flight matches for the first time since 1971.

United pressed harder after half-time and Luke Shaw drove forward from left-back for a stinging drive that Pickford pushed away to James, who accidently drove the rebound into Lingard’s face.

Everton were far more focused and combative than under the sacked Marco Silva.

But Solskjaer introduced Greenwood with 25 minutes left and it proved an inspired move.

Greenwood immediately had an effort saved by Pickford and, with United firmly on the front foot, the teenage starlet equalized in the 77th minute.

Picked out by James, Greenwood steadied himself on the edge of the area with a perfect first touch before drilling his low left-foot shot through a crowd of Everton defenders and past Pickford.

In a tense finale, Alex Iwobi almost won it for Everton with a dipping shot that De Gea pushed away before Ferguson hauled off substitute Moise Kean only 18 minutes after putting him on.


Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

Updated 21 January 2020

Africa Cup switch to winter sends a chill through European leagues

  • High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire

CAIRO: There is little doubt that the switch by the Africa Cup of Nations from summer to winter competition will have a big impact on European competitions, with those at the top of the Premier League perhaps most affected.

The confederation confirmed that from 2021 when Cameroon will play host, the tournament will revert back to being played in January and February.

The tournament was moved to a June-July slot for last year’s edition in Egypt, which meant minimal disruption to the European domestic season. But plenty of Premier League managers will be left with problems this time next year, with several stars likely to leave for up to six weeks, including pre-tournament preparations.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp appears to face the biggest headache given that two of his star attacking players, Mohamed Salah from Egypt and Sadio Mane from Senegal, both featured in the African tournament last summer and are almost certain to be involved in the 2021 competition in some capacity.

High-profile African players playing in England include the Arsenal duo Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang of Gabon and Nicolas Pepe of Cote d’Ivoire, while Manchester City will lose Riyad Mahrez should Algeria feature.

Klopp is critical of the decision to move the tournament dates, calling it “a catastrophe.” Salah and Mane’s absence would leave huge gaps in the Liverpool side. There is also Cameroon’s Joel Matip and Guinea’s Naby Keita to worry about. Matip has become solid at the back. Keita, too, would be a loss given his recent resurgence.

The Liverpool manager is upset because last year’s tournament was moved to mid-year to end a long-standing clash between clubs and countries over the release of their players. It was felt that common sense had prevailed when the tournament, which since 1960 had always been held during winter, reverted to summer. African players in western European clubs would no longer find themselves the target of competing claims for their attention every other season, which would benefit the players and their clubs and countries, and lead to fewer squabbles.

But then Cameroon changed its mind about hosting the tournament in summer next year, changing the dates from June and July to between Jan. 6 and Feb. 6. Why? The weather. It’s simply too hot in Cameroon in summer.

Organizers said they had agreed to the change after discussions with player and coach representatives.

But didn’t Cameroon know beforehand that its summers are too hot, too humid and right in the middle of its rainy season? That the country does not enjoy ideal conditions for football in summer could not have taken its organizers by complete surprise.

The situation serves as a vivid reminder of the botch-up of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. The host and FIFA decided that the World Cup, which is forever played in summer, would be moved to winter because of Qatar’s oppressive heat — but that decision came only after Qatar won the bid. That change, again, will mean a head-on clash with international tournaments and club competitions.

A football tournament simply cannot keep changing when it will be held as often as people change their socks. This is especially true for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is played every two years.

A major sports tournament must have fixed times. And, to be sure, its organizers should understand that you can’t please everybody. A championship’s times are bound to clash with some tournament or other. The African tournament, for example, will avoid a clash with FIFA’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. But it cannot but conflict with European leagues. The important thing is to stay the course. Once a date is picked, it should be stuck to like glue.