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Who should be Ronaldo's Man Utd strike partner? Greenwood vying for Rashford's place

11:00 GMT+3 11/12/2021
Cristiano Ronaldo Mason Greenwood Manchester United 2021-22
New boss Ralf Rangnick has deployed two strikers in his first two games in charge and with Ronaldo virtually guaranteed to play, that leaves one spot

Ralf Rangnick suggested that Mason Greenwood had not done enough in training to justify a start in his first league game as interim manager but the teenager surely did enough in the Champions League to make him reconsider that stance for his second. 

The temporary Manchester United boss said Greenwood needed to show in his training displays that he "deserved" game time after starting him on the bench for his first fixture against Crystal Palace. 

The 20-year-old, however, produced a strong argument against Young Boys in midweek that he should partner Cristiano Ronaldo for the trip to Norwich this weekend. 

His goal was just another example of the remarkable finishing technique he has in his locker.

The difficulty of the execution of his finish against the Swiss side was such that his expected goals (xG) for the game was just 0.13 and yet he still managed to find the target. 

It is no wonder Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed two years ago that Greenwood was the best finisher at the club. 

With Ronaldo doing a good job to dispel any myths that he cannot play in a pressing side with his last two performances, he is guaranteed his place in the starting XI. 

With Rangnick’s penchant to play with two up top, the question mark now is over who will partner him.  

The majority of Greenwood’s performances at first-team level have come on the right, with doubts over his physical ability to lead the line as the No.9 at such a young age. That is a view Rangnick seems to also hold despite only having a handful of training sessions to see Greenwood in action. 

So, how does Rangnick see him fitting in? 

“I think Mason is more of a nine-and-a-half,” the German said on Wednesday night. “He can play as a striker, he can also come from the wing, he can play together with another striker, he is very technical, left foot, right foot. 

“Sometimes he looks a bit... not on an athletic level. I think we have to develop him there physically, but technically all the things he can do with the ball are outstanding.

“I am not worried about his technical level. We need to develop him physically and mentally to become the strongest version of himself and if we manage to do that, he can become a regular player and a very valuable player for our club in the future.”

In the two games Rangnick has managed, he has started with a strike partnership.

Against Crystal Palace it was Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford at the top of a 4-2-2-2 formation, while Greenwood was joined by teenager Anthony Elanga in the changed 4-1-3-2 formation against Young Boys. 

Rashford has yet to find peak form since returning from his injury; he wasn't bad against Palace but he wasn’t a standout like Greenwood in the Champions League either. 

In fact, the dual-striker system seems perfectly set up to help Greenwood thrive.

The pressure of leading the line in a single centre-forward setup will be relieved by the experience of having Ronaldo alongside him and Greenwood can cover the Portuguese when those pressing issues no doubt arise. 

As a strike partnership, they have the qualities to complement each other. Greenwood is capable of dangerous runs in behind to cause the defence problems, while Ronaldo is a potent threat in the box and they're both clinical in front of goal. 

Rashford has similar qualities, of course, but the 24-year-old missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury and his finishing quality is not on the same level as Greenwood.

Rangnick has suggested his team to face Norwich on Saturday evening will be very similar, if not the same, as the XI that beat Palace last weekend. 

That would give Rashford another chance to impress his new manager. With Greenwood breathing down his neck, however, it’s an opportunity he needs to grasp because there are no guarantees that he will be starting every week. 

Some food for thought for Rangnick ahead of a busy festive period.