HE has been dubbed Manchester United’s new wonderkid – and Mason Greenwood was clearly heading for stardom from an early age.
Cute as a button, he won a local newspaper modelling contest at four years old.
The prize was a year’s modelling contract and £50 in shopping vouchers — and he celebrated with a trip to McDonald’s.
His mum, Melanie Hamilton, 49, said at the time: “He took it all in his stride.
“He never wanted to enter before but I think his sister talked him into it.”
Fast-forward 14 years and the Bradford boy is now a pin-up for his brilliance on the pitch.
Pundits and fans are going crazy for the 18-year-old after he netted a double against Bournemouth last weekend, bringing his total to 15 goals this season.
“Special talent”, “wonderkid”, “the next Gareth Bale” . . . the accolades keep coming.
United’s manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, reckons his protégé is now ready for the England team.
He said: “If you can handle playing for United, you can handle playing for any team and Mason’s got the qualities not many others have.”
Up until recently he also had a stunning Wag on his arm, but many fans might be thrilled to learn that the handsome lad is now believed to be single, having split with model Harriet Robson during lockdown.
Harriet, 19, told her 95,000 Instagram followers in April that the pair had drifted apart after 15 months together, saying they had “just agreed to split up right now”.
Since then, she has removed all their pictures together from social media and he has done the same.
So not only is Mason now the hottest thing on the pitch, he is also one of the country’s most eligible bachelors.
The sporting buzz around him is reminiscent of that generated by another former Man United teen sensation, Wayne Rooney — one of Mason’s idols — who made his Everton debut at 16 before joining the Red Devils two years later.
Key to Mason’s success has been his parents.
His mum has made sure he stays grounded — and he has dad Andrew, 51, to thank for helping with hours of footie practice.
Andrew would often mark out distances for Mason to run outside their home, then monitor his performance with a stopwatch.
Other times, he would take his youngest children to nearby Horsfall Stadium.
Mason would practise his ball skills on Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC’s turf while his sister Ashton would sprint around the 400-metre track.
Now 21, she is a track runner who gained a sports scholarship to study philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University.
They also have an older sister, Shannon, 26.
Ex-neighbour Brian Greenwood, 62 — no relation to Mason — said: “You never saw him without a football.
“Everywhere he went, he would have one under his arm.
“When he was not in school uniform, he would have his United shirt on.
“He was shy but very polite.
“Even from a young age, he was incredibly quick.
“We always knew he was going to make it.”
Oliver Arundale, 22, who works in the Costcutter store in Wibsey, Bradford, recalls kickabouts with Mason when the star was just nine.
He said: “You nearly broke your hand when Mason shot.
“He had real power considering his age.
“He’d be slide-tackling on concrete, diving for the ball.
“He’d have grazes on his knees but he didn’t care.”
Another neighbour, Caroline Dunn, 54, said: “He was such a lovely lad, always very polite and kind.
“His dad dedicated a lot of his time to his son.
“He was devoted to him.
“We are all so pleased for them.”
When Mason was five, Andrew took him to local youth club Idle Juniors FC.
Retired police officer Paul Newsham, who was their coach at the time, said: “Children weren’t allowed to play competitive games until they were six, but Mason was desperate to play.
“His family kept bringing him along to watch.”
As soon as he turned six, he was on — and boy, did he make his mark, scoring TEN goals on his debut.
Paul said: “He got the tenth with about a minute to go before the whistle.
“I had to keep bringing him off.
“But when I did, he would stick to my leg, asking, ‘Can I go on again, Paul?’
“Every time he went on, he scored.
“You never know at that age how they will progress but he had everything. He was quick, like lightning.”
It was not long before Mason’s reputation got round.
Opposition managers would soon nervously ask if they would be facing the club’s super-scorer.
Paul said: “It got to the point where every Saturday night I’d get calls from various clubs asking if Mason was playing the next day.
“He wasn’t with us for long, a bit more than a season.
“He was quiet, a shy boy, a lovely lad.
“His family was so supportive.
“It’s brilliant to see how he’s progressing.”
Pretty soon, Manchester United came calling with an offer of a place at the club’s development academy in Halifax, West Yorks.
As a gesture, they gave Idle Juniors a small fee.
Marcus Strudwick, current chair of the youth team, said: “I remember the cheque, with the United logo on it. Now I wish I’d framed it.”
At Halifax, Mason would arrive 20 minutes early and spend the time practising his signature two-footed moves by booting a ball at a bin outside the door.
Solskjaer has a photo of himself with a seven-year-old Mason at The Cliff, United’s Salford training ground.
He was then United’s reserve team boss and his son Noah, then eight, was also training there.
He said: “I asked Mason for the picture because I knew he was going to be a player.”
Mason stayed in Bradford for a few more years, attending Appleton Academy.
Helen Jones, executive headteacher, said: “We remember him fondly and are watching his career with great pride.
“Mason lived for his football so it is fantastic.”
It wasn’t long though before he was required to be in Manchester full-time, and his family moved with him.
He quickly rose through the ranks at United — top scorer for the Under-18 Premier League North and Player of the Tournament when the youth side won the ICGT trophy in the Netherlands, beating Real Madrid.
In the summer of 2018, with the first team squad on holiday after the World Cup in Russia, then-manager Jose Mourinho picked Mason to play in the club’s pre-season tour of the US, a remarkable show of confidence in the then 16-year-old.
A few months later, he signed his first pro contract with United, earning £800 a week as part of the side’s policy of not handing huge contracts to youngsters.
His deal was improved last October to a reported £15,000 a week.
When he got the game’s only goal against Kazakhstan’s Europa League visitors Astana last September — his first senior goal for United — fans rewarded him with his own chant to the tune of David Bowie’s Starman: “Ma-son Green-wood’s dynamite. He scores them with his left foot and he scores them with his right.”
Pupils and staff from his old primary school — St Winefride’s — were at Old Trafford that night after Mason arranged tickets.
PE teacher Mike O’Brien says: “We took 20 kids — and he got the goal. It was great.”
Meanwhile the star has now changed from a “skinny, wiry youngster” to one who can “withstand the rigour of the Premier League”, says Solskjaer.
Shunning offers from top agencies, he prefers his dad to represent him, from home in Huddersfield — and of all his heroes, he puts his parents top of the league.
He said: “My family is always helping me. If I’m down, they’re there to pick me back up.
“They are a real inspiration. I look up to them and I play for them.”
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