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Manchester United and the Mason Greenwood mess of their own making

On the club’s alleged decision concerning Mason Greenwood...

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Manchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

I’ve been dreading writing this all day, wondering where to even start. I, like many in this community, am tired of the toxicity and I’m well past burnt out.

Please bear with me as I try and unpack what can only be described as a mess.

Today The Athletic published a story claiming that Manchester United were planning on bringing Mason Greenwood back into the fold.

Greenwood has missed the last 18 months of football because he was charged with attempted rape, assault, and controlling and coercive behavior. His partner posted disturbing pictures of her wounds, allegedly caused by Greenwood, as well as audio recording of an attempted rape by Greenwood.

The charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in February of this year, with the following statement issued by a spokesperson on why the charges were dropped:

“In this case a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.

“In these circumstances, we are under a duty to stop the case. We have explained our decision to all parties.

“We would always encourage any potential victims to come forward and report to police and we will prosecute wherever our legal test is met.”

Here is the transcript of one of the audio recordings, included in a reply to Manchester United’s official statement on Twitter.

TW: Rape and sexual assault.

Greenwood and his partner have since gotten back together, and had a child together, and many have been quick to use that as a method of defending his alleged actions.

Of course there is also “Innocent until proven guilty” thrown around about a trial that never happened, and this has all fueled a very dumb argument that he’s earned a second chance.

Now many would argue and have argued that Greenwood’s second chance is playing out already by him not being sent to prison after his partner’s withdrawal of testimony. That doesn’t erase the disturbing evidence, and Greenwood given another chance by his partner is not the same thing as being given another chance by Manchester United.

The club are not required to let him play football for them again. It should be a privilege to wear the badge, but if the bar is this low for players it’s hardly that. There is not the burden of proof in football that there is in a court of law, and the reality is that what was posted online 18 months ago was so shocking and vile that most people rightfully assumed football was out of the question.

And it was, for 18 months. And time and again, in one form or another, and despite online abuse, there have been a number of statements and fan sites and organizations expressing their desire to never see Greenwood return to the club.

Including this powerful statement issued by Female Fans Against Greenwood’s Return.

So why the wait since the charges were dropped even? What did delaying any decision accomplish for Manchester United? Are they going to argue it’s a football move to bring back a player who hasn’t touched the pitch in nearly two years? Or maybe it was economical given he’d signed a new contract? Is that it, is a player who hasn’t played football and allegedly repeatedly beat his partner, and attempted to rape her, so worth bringing back after nearly two years not playing football?

How does that make any sense? How is that the decision?

Unfortunately I don’t speak for all Manchester United fans. Many very online sections of the fanbase are celebrating Greenwood’s potential return with posts that reflect their views on women as well as footballers. The disgusting rhetoric, all too common in cases of powerful men and alleged crimes of sexual violence, has only gotten worse as the club delay their decision. This rhetoric has targeted fans, pundits, and players on the Manchester United women’s, who were unnecessarily thrown into the firing line with reports (which are still posted by the way) that they were somehow involved in the investigation.

The club itself referred to the graphic evidence posted by Greenwood’s partner in a worrying and dismissive fashion as “partial evidence” in “public domain,” which, for lack of better words, is a really gross way to downplay the shocking start to all of this. In fact, the club’s whole statement appears to have been a gross attempt to downplay the report from The Athletic after being informed of its article by courtesy. Instead of responding the club just issued the vague statement.

This thread from Adam Crafton excellently spells out the professional frustrations with the club’s handling of the situation, and it also illustrates the alarming lack of awareness and total institutional disorder within the club as they continue struggling to show any sense of uniformity.

This is a damning indictment of Manchester United as an organization. At best they were shortsighted and unprepared, and through all of that they still seem to be leaning in the direction of alienating and offending a large part of the fanbase for the sake of finding value in the contract of a player who for very serious reasons hasn’t played football for 18 months.

People should want to feel proud of their club. More importantly, people should want to feel safe in the community of their club. Even if the decision is reversed at this point there is no guarantee anyone will feel safe based on the way this situation was handled.

And perhaps worst of all is the possibility that this has all been a method of gauging the reaction if Greenwood was to return to Manchester United. Because if that is the case, then they’ve gone and invited abuse to the women’s team, misled a number of publications and therefore the public on where they actually stand, all while making zero progress on any claimed internal investigation.

All that has been accomplished by the club leadership over the course of this so-called investigation is further exposure of a disorganized institution driven by commercial interests. In doing so they’ve alienated and invited abuse, shattering relationships with fans and putting their own players in the way of targeted abuse.

People the club is supposed to have a duty to protect and care for to at least the same degree it apparently feels for Mason Greenwood.

If this all ends in Greenwood’s return that will likely be a line in the sand for many, and no one should blame them. Why would anyone feel safe or comfortable knowing that the person allegedly responsible for the violence seen in those images and heard in those recordings 18 months ago was deemed fit to represent one of the largest sporting enterprises on the planet?

And how dare anyone fault them for it.

How dare anyone laugh at their being robbed of something that is supposed to be so pure and communal. Something so beautiful, that is as valuable as it is economically because of the love people have for it, has been made to feel despicable and painful.

It’s a shame. It’s heartbreaking. It’s infuriating.

It’s baffling as well, the thought that basic ethics and standards should not apply because someone is good at football. And yet this club, and the manager Erik ten Hag, have been in this situation before.

Recently, in fact.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, and Marc Overmars.

Men accused of terrible things, yet their character is praised and defended by club officials.

It’s part of a never ending trend in sports, in politics, in business, in families and social circles. A cyclical culture of violence that is continually perpetuated.

What are the moments to perpetuate or stop it? Decisions like this one, whether or not allow someone accused of terrible things the power and privilege and status of being a Manchester United player.

So make it stop.