Mason Greenwood has been informed that he will be returning to Manchester United.
In some ways, it’s unsurprising. For a while, it appeared that United might reopen the door for the 21-year-old.
Even still, the prospect of Greenwood donning a United jersey again is a difficult truth to accept.
He has not played for the club since he was detained in January 2022 following the revelation of violent photographs and audio on social media. Charges of attempted rape, assault resulting in actual bodily harm, and controlling and coercive behavior — all of which Greenwood denied — were dropped in February of this year.
Greenwood’s case was never tried in court, but those images and sounds are unavoidable.
On the first day of the season, a number of Manchester United fans issued a statement expressing their reservations about “returning Greenwood.” It “tells us, as women, that we don’t matter,” it stated, “that the one in every four women in the UK who experience domestic abuse and/or sexual assault don’t matter.” It shows us that the men who make the club’s money are important.”
I nodded throughout, from beginning to end.
Inviting Greenwood back into the fold would provide him the opportunity to reestablish his career and status as a Premier League footballer, even if a return to the international stage with England remains a distant possibility.
It allows him to become a hero for young boys and girls who are too young to grasp the reasons for his 18-month absence and who just adore United and everyone who wears the shirt, especially if they are match-winners.
It sends a clear message that if you are a valued asset with the potential to bring in money and success, or a player with the kind of talent that distinguishes you from your colleagues, then everything else is secondary. Manchester United appears to be unconcerned.
That last paragraph has no surprises, but that doesn’t make it any less terrible to write.
United has stated that no final decision has been taken, but if Greenwood returns, the narrative surrounding him among commentators and media will transform. It’s only a matter of how quickly that happens and how much fuss there is about his projected return.
There might be an initial conversation centered on the claims, the efforts United is (hopefully) taking to rehabilitate Greenwood, the importance of young players as role models, and why the club believed it was appropriate to bring him back. After that, his absence may be mentioned here and there as part of evaluating his performances (especially if it takes time for him to return to his previous level).
But what about the unsettling details that led to his disappearance from our television screens?
Broadcasters (and, presumably, pundits) will be leery of delving too deeply into the details. It’s awkward, nasty, and challenging, especially given the constraints on identifying the alleged victim (under UK law, persons who report certain sexual offenses are entitled to lifetime anonymity).
The more those images and audio broadcast on social media in January 2022 become in the rearview mirror, the easier it will be for some to brush over the horror of the man’s voice, claimed to be Greenwood, when he shouted: “I’m going to f*** you, you twat.” I don’t mind if you want f***ing sex with me. “Do you hear what I’m saying?”