Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood was earmarked by club staff as one who required specialized attention due to his attitude and behaviour. Compound this with his meteoric rise to the top and it’s no wonder that personnel within Old Trafford felt that he needed a firmer hand.
In a report by The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, it seems that Greenwood’s misdemeanours started well before he was charged with attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour, all relating to the same woman.
Last month, the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that the case against Greenwood was withdrawn due to the withdrawal of key witnesses and the fact that new evidence came to light. A CPS spokesperson said that there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
The Athletic details that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United academy graduate repeatedly violated lockdown restrictions. He held regular parties at a rented Airbnb in Salford despite government bans on gatherings.
A neighbour who witnessed and was affected by the parties held by Greenwood once remarked, “The music can go on until 4 am or 5 am, keeping me awake with this deep booming bass. The house shakes and there are loads of raised voices and laughing. One night a group of kids were at the front door shouting: Mason Greenwood, we don’t care who you are. You are a s— footballer. Let us in or we’ll break your legs.”
The police were aware of the incidents but rather than confront Greenwood, chose to take up the matter with the club, urging them to take control of the highly-talented striker. Club staff knew that Greenwood was a hard nut to crack. There had been numerous examples of breaking the rules, including an situation where he sneaked out of his house through the bedroom window to escape the watchful eyes of his parents.
Whitwell says, “United had long been aware Greenwood was a special case. A footballer capable of rare feats on the pitch, he also required particular attention off it.”
A club source stated to the outlet, “It wasn’t an easy ride. The club were protective of him in different ways. He was an asset but they also wanted to help him reach his full potential. He made immature choices, but lots of young players do that, then they grow up a bit.”
Former United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was particularly protective of young Greenwood. The Norwegian shielded him from the media during press conferences and was always quick to dismiss reports of the player’s misbehaviour. However, as per the Athletic, being late at Carrington for Greenwood was a huge concern. He had a problem being consistently on time for his first-team obligations.
The Athletic divulges just how often United clashed with England and the FA over Greenwood’s treatment. The Red Devils felt that he was still not mature enough to be put under the spotlight, but the sentiment within the Three Lions apparatus was that no harm could come from exposing him to a bit of publicity.
Greenwood made his England debut as a 78th-minute substitute in Reykjavik when he came on for Harry Kane. He was not available for selection during the next game, however, due to the now well-documented incident where he and Phil Foden invited girls back to the team hotel after the game. Whitwell claims that manager Gareth Southgate kept Greenwood in his thinking for future England call-ups at that stage, but United persuaded him to resist doing so.
During the goalscorer’s academy days, he did not shy from letting others know he was the big man and undoubtedly the best player on the pitch. Whitwell reports that Greenwood could be unpleasant and critical toward other players. He cites someone close to the academy who said: “he knew he was a good player and was cutting, he wasn’t shy about telling someone they were s—. When you hear that you’d think, ‘Can’t be talking like that.” Whitwell says Greenwood even criticised Cristiano Ronaldo when he was still at Real Madrid, saying “He’s dead,” implying he was finished. “Staff corrected him and considered his mentality that of youthful delusion,” the reporter says.
Whitwell adds, “In 2019, an ill-advised video in which Greenwood used graphic sexual language was posted on social media, causing acute embarrassment for the player and alarming some at United.”
“Under Solskjaer, United had what they considered a protection and education unit around Greenwood, but some staff members felt he required specialist support as a young adult operating under extreme pressure and expected to perform for a world-famous team.”
Greenwood, who is now an expectant father, faces an uncertain future at the Theatre of Dreams. The club is currently conducting an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding his arrest. The results of the inquiry will determine whether he will be restored to the team or be banished forever. Whitwell mentions that United have rejected multiple loan offers from Turkish clubs for Greenwood’s services.
A source close to the situation says, “He would run through a brick wall to be back playing for United now.”
The Athletic opines, “Some at United even feel he could play for the club again. Going down that path would cause a national moral conundrum and also trigger a sporting debate. Sponsors have privately expressed concerns about a return. Some members of the women’s team would take major issue.”
All eyes are on the Red Devils now. The ball is in their court. Will they reinstate Greenwood at the expense of stirring public fury and backlash, or will they cut ties with one of Carrington’s greatest prospects?