When he was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with a number of offences including attempted rape, Manchester United may well have thought they would never find themselves in this position.
The wheels of justice had started to turn, and officials at Old Trafford would have been forgiven for thinking that a judge or jury would deliver the verdict on Mason Greenwood.
Instead, that responsibility now rests on their shoulders.
Rapid answers have, perhaps understandably, not been forthcoming. As Mail Sport reports today, following the withdrawal of the CPS charges in February and with their own investigation — on which so much rests — still to be concluded, United execs are considering sending the 21-year-old abroad for the whole of next season. It is a solution of sorts, but a temporary one that could add another chapter to a damaging story that has now been running for a year and a half.
Should there be sympathy for the club? That, like the situation itself, is complex. To their credit, United initially acted promptly. On the same January Sunday last year that audio and video — which appeared to show a woman with multiple bruises and a bloodied face — was released online, they announced that they had suspended Greenwood — who was arrested that same day.
Manchester United are exploring potential loan options for Mason Greenwood
Greenwood is currently suspended by the club pending the outcome of an internal probe
United manager Erik ten Hag is in need of a striker as the absence of Greenwood lingers on
And when, more than a year later, the news broke that charges had been discontinued thanks to the withdrawal of key witnesses and ‘new material’ which ‘meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction’, they were again quick to announce that they would open their own probe. The player, on £75,000 a week until June 2025, would remain out of action.
United bosses were keen for the matter not to become a huge distraction to manager Erik ten Hag as his side sought Champions League qualification. Indeed, it is understood that the investigation has gathered pace since the 2-1 defeat by neighbours Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday that brought a relatively overachieving season to a conclusion.
Although the matter is being viewed as a separate issue, there is also the ongoing takeover saga, which is taking much longer than expected. Those involved may wish to seek 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 club’s best interests at heart. Greenwood was a very talented player. Some may wonder if, had he been struggling in the academy, a decision might have been easier to reach. There are also those who feel this raises serious questions over the environment the club provides for young players, suggestions United would refute.
A loan move may seem logical. There is hope that the club investigation will be concluded in the near future. Should they decide to keep Greenwood, then a move abroad would provide United with the opportunity to create distance. It would also allow the forward — who scored 35 goals in 129 games, a fine return for someone of his age — to play football again. United would no doubt monitor the situation closely, along with the player’s mental health, form and behaviour.
Public reaction would also be gauged and another year between Greenwood turning out for United and the start of the matter would have passed by the time he returns to Manchester. The views of the dressing room of the men’s and women’s teams, which have already been sought, would no doubt be examined again. After long being accused of shunning the women’s game, United have poured resources into their WSL side and are reaping the rewards. The opinions of their players, given the nature of the subsequently-dropped allegations, will be key.
Should United fail to conclude their investigation this summer, a loan deal would also buy them more time. However, the possibility that they find Greenwood did bring the club into disrepute and subsequently rip up his contract should not be dismissed.
United could determine Greenwood did bring the club into disrepute and rip up his contract
Likelihood of the United academy product heading to another Premier League club is remote
Given there are so many issues at play, football itself may seem trivial. While they might argue that it is irrelevant, striker is a clear area of need for Ten Hag and the absence of Greenwood lingers in the background.
In a recent interview, the manager admitted that Greenwood had shown he was capable of delivering the goals they so crave. The Dutchman said: ‘What we need besides Marcus Rashford is one extra player with scoring abilities, whether it’s coming out of our own squad or we have to sign one.’
That closing comment was taken as a nod to the Greenwood situation.
Should the investigation conclude that they will keep the player, a solution will need to be found — and immediately filling that gap for Ten Hag might not be the right step. Sending Greenwood to Europe might not be the worst outcome for all involved.