Manchester United can't let Mason Greenwood burn out early like Michael Owen
Teenage forward Mason Greenwood looks set for a bright future, but Rio Ferdinand hopes Manchester United don't let him peak too early then fizzle out.
Rio Ferdinand has warned that Manchester United need to treat Mason Greenwood with kid gloves at this early stage of his career and not risk the teenager burning out too early - like Michael Owen in his playing days.
Mason Greenwood breaking through at United
Greenwood broke into the United first team squad last season and made three appearances in total - including a debut start in the defeat to Cardiff City on the final day. His role in the squad unsurprisingly increased this term after the departure of Romelu Lukaku, with the 18-year-old making 32 appearances in all competitions.
A recent injury to Marcus Rashford means he could find himself a more regular starter in the final months of the season, but former United captain Ferdinand is concerned over-reliance on Greenwood too early could see him peak then fizzle out like Owen.
Owen's meteoric rise, then decline
Former Liverpool, Real Madrid and United striker Owen came through the youth categories at Anfield in the 1990s and became a superstar as a teenager, picking up the Ballon d'Or in 2001, but he was ravaged by injuries and fitness issues later in his career.
Speaking at the launch of BT's 4-3-3 Home Nations campaign, Ferdinand said: "The kid [Greenwood] is a fantastic goal scorer. All through the youth levels as a kid, he's always found it easy scoring goals. He plays off both feet – he's a fantastic talent, but he needs to be nurtured correctly. You can't expect him to come in and play every game just because there's an injury to Marcus and then put it all on his shoulders. A good yardstick is to look at someone like Michael Owen. He came through as a 'boy wonder', huge expectations [on him] and he played far too many games from a young age. I think that was a big factor in him having big injuries later on in his career, slowing him down. That's something to look at, to make sure we don't have the same mistake with Mason - nurture him the right way."
United need to protect Greenwood, not put him under pressure
Ferdinand is also concerned about Greenwood potentially being under too much pressure at United, particularly if he does take on a more important role with Rashford injured and Anthony Martial failing to convince in a central role.
"It [coping with the pressure] is difficult if he's got no one around him with the experience to guide him," Ferdinand continued. "You just hope he's got players or staff in there that can help him and guide him through that period and allow him to understand the pressure isn't [on] him. He's too young. There's other players in there that can take on that pressure on their shoulders and are experienced enough to do that. It's up to other people to do that."
BT's 4-3-3 Home Nations strategy will use the power of football and technology to release the potential of para and disability, grassroots, and women's football communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.