And who says football doesn’t have enough women in decision-making roles? There was a bitter irony in the news this week that Manchester United are consulting their women’s team over whether to let Mason Greenwood play for the club again. United had hoped to make a decision before the start of the Premier League season, but the process has apparently been delayed because three of United’s players are playing for England at the World Cup in Australia, and presumably have more pressing matters to deal with.

Quite apart from the fact that delegating the responsibility to the players places them squarely in the crosshairs of horrific abuse from Greenwood’s many depraved internet fanboys, you had to gape at the sheer chutzpah at work here. It is now six months since the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued its case against Greenwood for attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault. Time enough, you might think, for the elite Carrington hivemind to consult the necessary stakeholders, weigh up the risk-reward quanta and enact a decision. And yet here we are, the season already begun, and Ella Toone, Mary Earps and Katie Zelem are being dragged into this grave moral issue while they’re trying to prepare for a World Cup semi-final on the other side of the world. This, presumably, is what is meant by respecting the process.

It is now more than 18 months since the harrowing audio emerged of a man (alleged at the time to be Greenwood) abusing a woman and attempting to coerce her into sex. The woman also posted pictures of her bleeding face and bruised body, suggesting that Greenwood had inflicted her injuries. Criminal charges against Greenwood were dropped after key witnesses “withdrew their cooperation from the investigation”, according to the CPS. But the audio is still available. You can go and listen to it whenever you want, and draw whatever conclusion you want. And if the conclusion is that Greenwood should not be playing football for United, then congratulations: you are exactly one step ahead of where one of the world’s biggest clubs currently finds itself.

Frequently you will hear this described as a “complex issue”, which of course it only has to be if you want to complicate it. You could take into account, for example, the fact that Greenwood is an extremely talented footballer, with a nose for goal and a powerful shot off either foot. You could take into account the fact that Erik ten Hag is reportedly open to having Greenwood back in the squad as competition for the forward line. You could take into account the fact that Greenwood still has almost two years left on a contract worth about £75,000 a week, and the possibility of a legal challenge from the player should United unilaterally decide to terminate it.

But of course these are the kinds of things that only complicate the issue when a football club has entirely mislaid its ethical bearings. When a corporate organisation made up of humans ceases to think humanely, and instead gears its every move towards the future worth of the enterprise. How else to explain the grotesque way in which United have tried to stage-manage the Greenwood decision, dragging it out, waiting to see which way the wind blows, every step a kind of algorithmic calculation? Input total remaining worth of contract. Factor in expected goal and assist output and potential value of Champions League qualification. Subtract lost sponsorships and cancelled season tickets. Minus cost of external PR and increased matchday security. Minus potential fallout from women’s team. How angry would you say Ella Toone looked? OK, let’s call it a 6. Hit “Calculate”. And the number the machine spits out at the end: that’s your moral compass.

And this of course is how capitalism has always operated: with coldness and cunning, with ersatz emotions and the kind of temperate language designed to convince you it cares. There is no right and wrong, only graph going up and graph going down. While it’s tempting to single out United for their conduct here, it’s worth asking: do you honestly believe your football club would act any differently in the same position? Most of you will be aware of at least one other Premier League club currently harbouring an accused rapist, continuing to pay and play him, continuing to act as though nothing has happened, which in terms of the bottom line it probably hasn’t. Nor are big clubs uniquely culpable here: somehow, against all the available evidence that it would be a terrible and gross idea, lower-league clubs in England and Scotland still seem to keep offering David Goodwillie a trial despite a civil court ruling he had raped a woman in 2011. He never faced a charge and insists he is innocent.

You will not decide whether Greenwood gets to play for United again. Nor will the victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence, the numerous courageous female United fans who have pledged to keep fighting and protesting until Greenwood is out of the club. Nor will the United women’s team, really, for all their handy PR value. It will, as ever, be a decision for the market alone. The market is reasonable and good. The market always gets what it wants in the end, whether you like it or not. “I asked you politely and you wouldn’t do it,” the man’s voice says on the audio. “So what else do you want me to do?”