MIKE KEEGAN: Man United have a Greenwood conundrum as they weigh up what to do with the striker
When he was charged by the prosecution with a number of crimes, including attempted rape, Manchester United may have thought they would never end up in this position.
The wheels of justice began to turn and officials at Old Trafford would have been forgiven for thinking a judge or jury would pass judgment on Mason Greenwood.
Instead, that responsibility now rests on their shoulders.
Quick answers have, perhaps understandably, not been forthcoming. As Mail Sport reports today, United execs are considering sending the 21-year-old abroad for the entire next season. . It’s a workaround of sorts, but a temporary one that could add another chapter to a damaging story that’s been going on for a year and a half now.
Should there be sympathy for the club? That, like the situation itself, is complex. To their credit, United acted quickly at first. On the same Sunday in January last year that audio and video – which appeared to show a woman with multiple bruises and a bloodied face – was released online, they announced they had suspended Greenwood – who was arrested the same day.
Manchester United are exploring possible loan options for Mason Greenwood
Greenwood is currently suspended by the club pending the outcome of an internal investigation
United manager Erik ten Hag needs a striker as Greenwood’s absence continues
And when news broke more than a year later that the charges had been dropped thanks to the withdrawal of key witnesses and “new material” that left “no real prospect of conviction,” they were quick to announce that they would open their own probe. The player, who earns £75,000 a week until June 2025, would be out of action.
United bosses wanted the case not to become a huge distraction for manager Erik ten Hag as his side looked to qualify for the Champions League. Indeed, it is clear that the investigation has gained momentum since Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to neighbors Manchester City in the FA Cup final, which ended a relatively underperforming season.
While the case is considered a separate matter, there is also the ongoing takeover saga, which is taking much longer than expected. Those involved may want to solicit the thoughts of a new buyer should the Glazers decide on Sir Jim Ratcliffe or Sheik Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani.
United will act with the interests of the club first. Greenwood was a very talented player. Some may wonder if, had he struggled at the academy, a decision might have been easier. There are also those who feel this raises serious questions about the environment the club provides for young players, suggestions that United would refute.
A loan may seem logical. There is hope that the club investigation will be completed in the near future. Should they decide to keep Greenwood, a move abroad would give United an opportunity to create distance.
It would also enable the attacker – who scored 35 goals in 129 games, a great achievement for someone his age – to play football again. United would no doubt be keeping a close eye on the situation, along with the player’s mental health, form and behaviour.
The reaction of the public would also be measured and another year would have elapsed between Greenwood leaving for United and the start of the case would have passed by the time he returns to Manchester. The locker room views of the men’s and women’s teams, which have already been requested, would no doubt be revisited.
After long being accused of shunning the women’s game, United have poured resources into their WSL squad and are reaping the rewards. Their players’ opinions, given the nature of the allegations later withdrawn, will be key.
Should United fail to complete their investigation this summer, a loan deal would also buy them more time. However, the possibility that they find Greenwood discredited the club and subsequently ripped up his contract should not be dismissed.
United could determine that Greenwood has discredited the club and torn up his contract
The chances of the United Academy product going to another Premier League club are slim
With so many issues at play, football itself may seem trivial. While they may argue it’s irrelevant, the striker is a clear need area for Ten Hag and Greenwood’s absence lingers in the background.
In a recent interview, the manager admitted that Greenwood had shown his ability to achieve the goals they crave. The Dutchman said: “What we need besides Marcus Rashford is one extra player with scoring ability, whether from our own squad or whether we need to sign one.”
That closing remark was taken as a nod to the situation in Greenwood.
Should the investigation show that they want to keep the player, a solution will have to be found – and filling that gap immediately for Ten Hag may not be the right move. Sending Greenwood to Europe may not be the worst outcome for all concerned.