Man Utd face a huge decision over Mason Greenwood

Will they accept him back after charges were dropped against possibly the club’s most talented young player?

What happens now for Mason Greenwood’s Manchester United career after the Crown Prosecution Service dropped his attempted rɑpe and assɑult charges on Thursday?

The 21-year-old last wore a United jersey on January 22, 2022, in a 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford. He was arrested later that month and charged with attempted rɑpe, controlling and coercive behavior, and assɑult causing actual bodᎥly harm in October. He denied the allegations.

Mason Greenwood for Manchester United vs. Milan in March 2021. Phil Noble/Reuters Photograph

Mason Greenwood’s attempted rɑpe case has been dropped by prosecutors.

Greenwood, perhaps United’s most talented young footballer, has been out of the first-team picture for more than a year, and the squad may have mixed feelings about his return, should he do so.

Greenwood is a law-abiding citizen, but United’s statement on his future shows that there is no guarantee he will be welcomed back, despite being under contract until 2025 (with the club having the option of another year) and a multimillion-pound asset.

“Manchester United notes the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision that all charges against Mason Greenwood have been dropped,” it said. The club will now conduct its own investigation before deciding on the next steps. We will not comment further until that process is completed.”

Greenwood will not return to training as the club attempts to better understand the circumstances surrounding the charges, which has no timetable.

There is a moral dimension that the club, players, and Erik ten Hag may grapple with, as well as a court of public opinion that neither United nor Greenwood can influence. A sizable number of fans who read about the case, heard the recordings, and saw the videos that were used as evidence against him will have their own opinion.

This is the latest challenge to Ten Hag’s fledgling presidency. As his demotion of Cristiano Ronaldo as a first-team starter and later exclusion of the Portuguese for walking out of United’s win over Tottenham in October demonstrate, the manager can be decisive, as evidenced by his omission of United captain Harry Maguire from the starting XI.

The Greenwood question, on the other hand, is quite different. And it is certain that it will not be solely Ten Hag’s decision, as the club considers its values, how an institution’s image should be perceived, and commercial imperatives. Ten Hag made sporting decisions regarding Ronaldo (at first) and Maguire. Time had caught up with the 37-year-old, and his pace is no longer up to what the manager requires.

Before a match last month, a view from outside Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium.

Greenwood’s ability with the ball at his feet is undeniable. At only 21, he has the potential to be a fixture for United for the next decade and beyond. But before Ten Hag – and the club – is a moral quandary, and for United’s finance department and brand builders, how will his retention affect each of these? If he is retained, Greenwood may have his own internal debate about how he will deal with the inevitable constant chants directed at him by opposing fans on every match day (for the foreseeable future, at least) despite his case being dropped. If Greenwood is rejected by his boyhood club, the same equation applies wherever he ends up in Britain, so a move abroad could be considered.

Another question is how fit Greenwood will be if and when he returns, though not primarily in terms of physical fitness. That can be regained relatively easily through training and game time, but Greenwood’s mentɑl state is unknown.

Whatever decision United makes will send a message that will be received differently by different people. “I am relieved that this matter is now over, and I would like to thank my family, loved ones, and friends for their support,” Greenwood said in a statement. At this time, there will be no further comment.”

The future of United’s playing time is still up in the air.

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