Mason Greenwood talent cannot be a factor in Man Utd’s thinking. He’s got to go…

Ian Watson
Greenwood has no England future

Man Utd are keeping their cards close to their chest over Mason Greenwood but, worryingly, it feels as though the temperature is being taken over a possible return. They must do the right thing…

Manchester United are good again. It ought to be a simple, joyous time to follow the Red Devils while Erik ten Hag drags them back towards the top. Instead, United fans are having to pick sides and draw lines. Enough to give many a migraine.

First there’s the takeover. #TeamQatar or #TeamJim? There is no middle ground, for that space is occupied only by the Glazers, and maybe the Finnish fella who wants to make @sanchogoat99 a joint-director of football along with a billion others. Nor is there a convincing moral champion on either side of the Sheikh-Sir spectrum. But it would be a tragedy if such a sporting and cultural institution is to become an ugly, gratuitous sportswashing vehicle.

But morally there is a clear right and wrong side to stand in the debate over Mason Greenwood. Worryingly, it feels like United are lurching towards the dark side; or at least they seem much too willing to check out the view.

As you will likely know – if not, his supporters will gleefully tell you – Greenwood has not been prosecuted for any crime. He was charged with attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour. But the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued proceedings, citing the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material coming to light. The CPS took the view that there was “no longer a realistic prospect of conviction”.

Which presents Manchester United with a Greenwood dilemma. Back or sack?

Read more: Manchester United must walk a narrow tightrope over Mason Greenwood and his potential return

It’ll hurt either way. For those at Old Trafford tasked with reaching a decision, it is not a simple one; this has more shades of grey than the 1995/96 away kit. For many of us not burdened with the obligation and scrutiny facing the United hierarchy, it is rather more black and white: Mason Greenwood should never again enjoy the privilege of pulling on a red shirt.

There are numerous counter-arguments to that statement, some slightly more credible than others. But for the many among us who have seen and heard the evidence that prompted the police to act in the first instance, it is enough to reach a verdict over Greenwood’s United career even if it is insufficient to continue a criminal prosecution.

Manchester United’s threshold – football’s threshold – need not be as high as the CPS’s. F***, does that really need to be said? Especially on the occasions the evidence is in plain sight.

United have said they are carrying out their own internal investigation. They have had almost 14 months to do their digging and though it was best left to the police for over a year, the club were hardly starting afresh upon news that the CPS were discontinuing their probe. Where are we now, 423 days on from his arrest? Many United fans, at least the loudest on social media, are clamouring for his reinstatement to Ten Hag’s squad and, in the background, the club are still testing the water to see which way the tide is turning.

Since there is a reasonable likelihood that we cannot trust United to reach the right conclusion on their own, we can only hope that they receive enough pushback to stumble upon the necessary outcome. However they reach that destination – even if it means paying up the remainder of his contract – United must cut their ties with Greenwood.

For all the talk of ‘a duty of care’ to a young player who reports suggest has received the benefit of many doubts, United have far greater responsibilities that they must not ignore. If they need members of their women’s team to remind them of that, that’s already a black mark that won’t wash.

Mason Greenwood Man Utd

It feels like United are a little too keen to be seen to be doing the right thing by the wrong person. Would they be contemplating such an image-threatening contortion act for a player who wasn’t viewed as a generational talent? If Greenwood was a young defender struggling to establish himself, would United go to similar lengths and compromise their perceived values as reports suggest they have repeatedly done with their wonder-kid? Perhaps. But I highly doubt it.

There is a reasonable chance that, as The Athletic relays, ‘this experience has changed Greenwood’. Christ, for his sake, it really should have done, unless he really is as belligerent as the worst reports would have you believe. And given how he was previously indulged by United, you could almost excuse him for being that way.

But it doesn’t matter. Goals, assists, transfer fees… there isn’t a number for any of those things that would wipe clean the stain on United’s reputation if they don’t pick the right side.

Mason Greenwood: The case for his Manchester United return in the Mailbox