Quite why esteemed journalists at The Times appear to have engaged in a game of one-upmanship as to who can get the single most ludicrous Mason Greenwood article past their editor is unknown, but Martin Samuel has clearly taken Henry Winter’s baffling opinion piece to heart because he dials the damaging nonsense up to 427 this weekend.
‘Manchester United have a duty of care to help Mason Greenwood face future’ is the archetypal Samuel headline: looking at a pressing subject matter from a different angle to present an alternative perspective. He is the devil’s advocate in every sense.
And that sub-headline of ‘If United take partial credit for the man Marcus Rashford has become, they must also take some responsibility for Greenwood’ is fucking despicable. Why use the name of a man who belongs nowhere near this story whatsoever?
But let’s get into the weeds of Samuel’s actual message. It starts with a mention of Greenwood’s ‘baggage’ and ‘obvious negatives’, terms which are doing an awful lot of heavy lifting. Then not content with needlessly and inexplicably dragging Rashford into the situation, he brings up a random club.
‘Not saying that they would but a club in Everton’s desperate state might be prepared to ride the backlash to secure such a goalscorer.’
Feels like you kind of are saying that they would.
‘Yet United could make it difficult for those opportunistically circling,’ Samuel continues. ‘Release Greenwood but with a statement that leant heavily on public image and reputation, on what a modern club stands for, on footballers as role models, on the rise of the women’s team and the message it would send to continue Greenwood’s employment.’
Any reason why this statement would not refer to doing the right and moral thing? Yet again – and a little louder for those in the back who are employed by The Times and want to make this solely about PR – this really is not solely about PR.
A number of rhetorical questions, and a risible description of how some working at Man Utd will remember Greenwood as ‘a smiling little boy’, follow. Samuel then asks: ‘Would they wish him destroyed, no matter what we believe we have seen or heard?’
And Mediawatch can only speak for itself but it knows damn well sure what it has seen and heard.
‘It is widely presumed that Greenwood can never represent United again, but is that so?’ is the last of those questions from Samuel – feel free to come up with an answer to that head-scratcher yourselves – leading into his next point.
‘Erik ten Hag, the manager, is the only club official to date to give his views on what could happen in the current scenario. “Let’s wait for the judgment,” he said last May. “If he’s proven innocent, he would get a place in my team.”
It’s a striking quote. And as soon as Samuel produces video or audio proof of Ten Hag actually saying it then it will be worth bringing up. Because a quick search shows it has circulated on social media for months but has only appeared in one other publication of note: when Neil Custis committed it to print in The Sun on February 3, two days before Samuel.
It’s ever so slightly strange that a statement made by a Man Utd manager in May would not be referenced whatsoever by a major outlet in the subsequent nine months, then suddenly be mentioned twice by prominent national newspaper writers. But they attend all the press conferences and briefings and such so they surely won’t have been fooled by a fake quote. Obviously not.
Samuel does manage to use one actual traceable quote, that of former chief crown prosecutor for northwest England Nazir Azfal saying “we don’t have trial by media,” and that ‘in the eyes of the law Greenwood is innocent’.
It is a slightly selective portion of Azfal’s words to pluck out though, considering he also said ‘few have prosecuted more rapes than I & I know the system is broken’, ‘we have a problem with rape’, ‘we have a problem with believing victims of rape’ and ‘when we encourage victims to come forward, we let them down again and again.’
Just put it down to a clumsy like and be done with it, Martin.
Or round off your argument with the point about Man Utd’s ‘duty of care’.
‘For if United would take partial credit for the admired man Marcus Rashford MBE has become, they must also take a measure of responsibility for a player that loses his path.’
That just confirms how absurd the Rashford link is. And Christ, ‘a player that loses his path’ is a choice description.
‘This is not to paint Greenwood as the victim – he is not – but nor is he beyond reach if that journey is handled with appropriate care and contrition and the promise of change and personal growth.’
What part of the statement Greenwood gave after all charges were dropped – “I am relieved that this matter is now over and I would like to thank my family, loved ones and friends for their support. There will be no further comment at this time” – suggested ‘the promise of change and personal growth’?
The whole article is just an utter disgrace. But then what more did any of us expect from the man once responsible for this:
Maybe stop letting him write things on the subject. Or at all.