Manchester United ‘must’ not keep any Mason Greenwood sale profit? A clever but stupid argument

Ian Watson
Man Utd co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Mason Greenwood
Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants a bigger sum for Mason Greenwood than sides were initially expecting

Manchester United have been urged to pass on any money they receive from selling Mason Greenwood. That would be a virtue signal too far, one that cannot fulfil their obligation, and shifts the onus from other places it ought to be.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe had not put a foot wrong since his investment was agreed and subsequently confirmed. It wasn’t hard. Simply not being Malcolm Glazer’s spawn, and existing in something other than AI-generated form, gave the INEOS billionaire an advantage over the other individuals who own or might have owned Manchester United.

But there have been some red flags in Ratcliffe’s communications since his stake was ratified this week. The most prominent being his public stance on The Mason Greenwood Situation.

“Yes, absolutely. We will make a decision and we will justify it,” he said in response to a question over whether the club would make a fresh decision over Greenwood’s future.

“He’s a Manchester United footballer so we are in charge of football. So the answer is yes, we have to make decisions. It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made.

“The process will be: understand the facts not the hype and then try and come to a fair decision on the basis of values which is basically is he a good guy or not, and answer could he play sincerely for Manchester United well and would we be comfortable with it and would the fans be comfortable with it.”

Oh boy. Haven’t we done this already? Ratcliffe is a smart cookie, and as a United fan, he cannot have been ignorant to the process and furious reaction when the club tried to go down the road of reintegrating the disgraced forward. It was a sh*tshow. One that certainly does not bear repeating. Whoever’s name is above the door, the club’s reputation cannot absorb the damage a U-turn would do, at this or any stage.

FROM AUGUSTWhy are Manchester United so willing to degrade themselves for Mason Greenwood?

It is hard to fathom how Ratcliffe and his team might not have understood this. He does, though, doesn’t he? Mason Greenwood cannot play again for Manchester United. This has been established, and accepted, by the club, albeit belatedly compared to most right-thinking individuals.

Ratcliffe’s reaction to a potentially incendiary question was a fudge to help procure what United see as the best outcome of a very sorry saga. That being a summer sale. Even that, though, would be a misstep on United’s part, according to some. Jason Burt, writing in The Telegraph, agrees that the Red Devils must sell Greenwood. But they should also ‘resist the urge to pocket the cash’.

Must they?

As Burt acknowledges, ‘legally, logically, commercially, financially United are entitled to keep the fee if Greenwood is sold. But morally? No,  they should not.’

Instead they should accept the biggest fee they can realise and use that money in a variety of other ways. The club have already been urged to donate it to domestic abuse charities and this would be a good move. As would using the money to further support women’s football… It should not be spent on the men’s first team.

Taking issue with those noble sentiments is a tricky business indeed. It is a clever strawman to construct: arguing that the money should be donated to domestic abuse charities makes any counter to that sound awful. But it makes little sense in the real world.

United deserve criticism for aspects of their handling of Greenwood and his alleged actions, arrest, charges and the subsequent dropping of those charges. But the idea that they should surrender any sum received for Greenwood’s registration feels like a virtue signal beyond reasonable expectation.

How much? Perhaps it should not matter, but some reports suggest United could receive around £30million for Greenwood, perhaps from Atletico Madrid or Barcelona, who face the forward in La Liga this weekend. As Burt’s piece noted, it is ‘the kind of money that can make a real, lasting and positive difference’.

And, sure, United should feel obliged to see to it that some of the cash is diverted to projects that could do just that. It is unfair, though, to demand that the club receive nothing from Greenwood’s sale.

We repeat: United have not handled the entire episode creditably. And they absolutely do not warrant sympathy. That must be reserved exclusively for one person and no one else.

But these have been tricky, delicate circumstances around which United have had to tip-toe. From their perspective, there has not been a simple solution that would satisfy everyone, or even most people, especially when balancing legalities with their moral obligations.

So far, they have managed to fulfil those obligations – barely, since it took a backlash last summer to convince those then in power at the club that Greenwood should not ever be seen in a Manchester United shirt again. And, we say in hope as much as conviction, he won’t be.

But he will continue his career. And that being true, he will operate within the same accepted parameters as his fellow professionals. He will continue to be paid, as he has been by United throughout the last 25 months because they had no other choice, and his next club will seek to squeeze the most from his new employment. Any goal Greenwood scores, be it for Barca, Atletico, or anyone else, will count as much as any other.

Perhaps the focus here should be on those clubs who want to give Greenwood the chance to rebuild his career, if not his reputation. And many would argue that he, like everyone else, deserves that chance. Given what we know, it would not sit right with many of us to see Greenwood thrive and be adored in the famous colours of Barca or Atletico, but each of us decides where we draw our lines. United’s, despite appearing blurred, seem to be plotted differently to those Spanish rivals. They must maintain them.

United will feel reasonably entitled to claim back from any sale the money they have paid Greenwood since he was first suspended – on full salary – in January 2022. Fag-packet maths puts that figure in the region of £8million, with a contribution from Getafe, who are also due 20 per cent of any fee United bank for Greenwood. All of which accounts for roughly half of what United may or may not receive.

Man Utd loanee Mason Greenwood celebrates his goal.

Should United be under greater obligation than Greenwood himself here? Or the parties who gain, financially or from a sporting perspective, from the opportunity to sign a player for a perhaps a quarter of the price he was once valued? What happens when Greenwood’s next club is ready to move him on again – should that fee be donated to charity too? Does Greenwood donate a portion of his wages or bonuses? Or is it Manchester United alone who carry this moral burden?

To our knowledge, the only ‘mistakes’ acknowledged thus far were by United in their statement when they finally, ham-fistedly vowed to part ways with their academy graduate. Once they achieve that, permanently rather than temporarily, then the club absolutely have a duty to demonstrate how seriously they take their responsibility to tackle violence against women and girls. And part of that could certainly involve a hefty donation or financial commitment.

But it needs to go beyond simply throwing money at an issue that is too important just to bookend from United’s perspective with a performative £30m gesture.