Why it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that Greenwood plays for Man United again

Manchester United are facing a decision: what to do with Mason Greenwood: keep him, loan him or offload him permanently? It’s a question that has hung over the club for almost two-and-a-half years and despite a season on loan in Spain with Getafe, the issue of the 22-year-old forward’s future is troubling minds again at Old Trafford.

Greenwood’s season-long loan at Getafe ends next month, and sources have told ESPN that Greenwood’s future is as unclear as it was 12 months ago. But with Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos group now controlling football operations at United following their acquisition of a 27.7% stake from the Glazer family in February, all options are being considered as to what happens next. It means, according to sources, that aside from the possibility of another loan spell or permanent move away from the club, there is a scenario in which Greenwood returns to United this summer and is reintegrated into the squad.

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Greenwood has not played for United since appearing in a 1-0 Premier League win against West Ham United at Old Trafford in January 2022. A week later, he was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault, with Greater Manchester Police confirming the existence of “social media images and videos posted by a woman reporting incidents of physical violence.” United immediately suspended the then-20-year-old from training and matches “until further notice.”

In October of that year, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that Greenwood would be charged with attempted rape, engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm with a trial date set for November 2023. But the CPS dropped all charges against Greenwood in February 2023 due to “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.”

– Mason Greenwood’s trial, explained

United subsequently announced they would undertake their own internal investigation. That concluded in August 0f 2023, with the club announcing that Greenwood would not be resuming his career at Old Trafford. United said in a statement: “All those involved, including Mason, recognise the difficulties with him recommencing his career at Manchester United. It has therefore been mutually agreed that it would be most appropriate for him to do so away from Old Trafford, and we will now work with Mason to achieve that outcome.”

Greenwood’s loan move to Getafe was completed in the final hours of the 2023 summer transfer window, but rather than closing the book on a complicated situation for United, it simply delayed a definitive outcome. Once Getafe’s season ends with a LaLiga fixture against Mallorca on May 26, United have to make another decision.

Internal concerns at United over the reaction of the club’s women’s team to the prospect of Greenwood returning to play for the men’s side were a significant factor in the decision not to restore him to the squad last summer. The threat of reputational damage to the club — and, by association, its many sponsors and partners — also contributed to his exit, albeit temporarily, from Old Trafford, while some United supporters made clear their opposition to Greenwood ever playing for the club again. Those issues remain, but some elements have changed since last autumn, most notably the arrival of Ratcliffe’s Ineos group as the decision-makers on the football side at the club.

When asked about Greenwood’s future in February, Ratcliffe was clear in his position that all options were on the table. He said: “He’s a Manchester United footballer and we are in charge of football. So the answer is ‘yeah, we have to make decisions.’ It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made. The process will be: understand the facts not the hype, and then try and come to fair decision on the basis of values, which is basically ‘is he a good guy or not?’ Could he play sincerely for Manchester United well, would we be comfortable with it and would the fans be comfortable with it?”

Sources have told ESPN that Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have expressed an interest in signing Greenwood, but Barcelona’s attention has waned in recent months. Earlier this year, senior Barça figures discussed Greenwood with John Murtough, who left his role as United’s football director this week.

Atlético and Juventus remain potential options for a permanent deal, but sources have said that United’s expectation of a transfer fee in the region of £30 million is unrealistic due to financial restrictions across Europe. Interested clubs also believe that United cannot legitimately expect a significant fee for Greenwood.

Another loan deal is the easiest route. At Getafe, Greenwood has scored six goals and five assists in 25 LaLiga appearances, and club president Angel Torres is keen to negotiate with United to extend the player’s stay at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez for another year. In the event of another loan, United would likely trigger the 12-month contract extension to commit Greenwood to the club until 2026, opening the prospect of a permanent transfer next summer.

The latter option would perhaps be a case of deferring this decision again, but sources tell ESPN that United will not contemplate the alternative — a permanent transfer below their valuation of the player — simply to draw a line under the situation. United declined to comment for this story.

Sources have said that Greenwood and his family have settled well in Spain, with initial concerns of hostility quickly disappearing. Though Greenwood is happy in Spain, football economics might force him to return to England this summer if United cannot find a new club for him. A permanent transfer remains the preferred option, but restoring Greenwood to the United squad has not been ruled out, and that appears to be a significant shift from the club’s position last August.

One significant factor that has been made clear to ESPN by sources is that no decision has been made on the future of a player who was once regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in world football; he scored more goals for United as a teenager than Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford.

There is also an acceptance that many difficult issues will have to be addressed if Greenwood is to return to the club as a member of the first-team squad. Yet the reality right now is that it could happen. Mason Greenwood playing for Manchester United again is unlikely, but not impossible.

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