Manchester United’s chief executive, Richard Arnold, told the club’s executive leadership in the first week of August that United were planning to bring back Mason Greenwood.

As part of that plan for Greenwood’s reintegration with the men’s first team, Arnold intended to record a video explaining the decision that would be shared both with staff and the general public.

The proposed date for the announcement was Friday, August 4.

The plan laid out by Arnold that week was that Greenwood would not make any appearances with the club’s charitable arm, the Manchester United Foundation, in the short to medium term, even though the club would be bringing him back to the first-team set-up.

However, United did not proceed with the announcement and, 12 days on, they are still to communicate any decision publicly, meaning elements of the plan could still change.

Greenwood, 21, has not played for United since he was arrested in January 2022 after a recording and images were released on social media of an alleged sexual attack. Charges against Greenwood for attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, which he denied, were dropped in February of this year. The UK’s Crown Prosecution Service said: “A combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Greenwood leaves court in November (Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

After the criminal case ended, United stated on February 2 that they will “conduct its own process before determining next steps”. No further information has been communicated to supporters six months on. The United process was led by chief executive Arnold, assisted by the club’s legal counsel Patrick Stewart, communications chief Ellie Norman, football director John Murtough and the chief operating officer, Collette Roche.

The Athletic has previously reported that United held meetings with Greenwood at the club’s Carrington training ground during the first month of the investigation. The club’s owners, the Glazer family, appear to have delegated key responsibility for the decision to Arnold, who is to be the public face of the decision and informed members of his leadership team about the chosen path after returning from the club’s tour of the United States in pre-season.

Sources close to the process spoke to The Athletic on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak publicly. The Athletic has not been told the precise reason United have delayed the announcement of their decision on Greenwood, but it has been reported widely that the club wished to inform key stakeholders of their decision ahead of going public. This would have included principal sponsors, the club’s fan advisory board, prominent former players and also members of the women’s team. However, several key United players, such as goalkeeper Mary Earps and captain Katie Zelem, remain on international duty at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

One theory, therefore, is that United have simply delayed the formalities until their women’s players return. United have never intended to consult their female players about the decision, but they did wish to give the team prior notice and the opportunity for feedback. However, the players found themselves the unwitting victims of a social media storm last weekend when, on the eve of England’s World Cup quarter-final against Colombia, a story emerged in The Guardian that claimed the decision had been delayed to allow United to consult them. In response to posts from United’s official women’s account about the game, which England won 2-1, users have petitioned Zelem, Earps and Ella Toone to allow Greenwood’s return.


Greenwood is wanted back by the football department (Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The messages were seen by players and The Athletic has also been told that some of the posts were more menacing and threatening, to the extent one agent has considered enlisting cybersecurity support for his client.

The Athletic has been repeatedly told that the club’s football operations department, including Murtough and head coach Erik ten Hag, are supportive of Greenwood’s reintegration.

During the club’s pre-season tour, Ten Hag was asked about Greenwood and said he had given his view on the matter internally. He did not state his view publicly. One argument the football department has advanced centres on his belief United have a duty of care to Greenwood, who has been on the books since the age of seven. However, others might argue that United may be motivated by the fact Greenwood has two years remaining on a £75,000-per-week contract and are loathe to give up on a player who scored 35 goals in 129 first-team appearances at United. The Athletic has been told there are multiple employees within the club who are deeply troubled by the decision and believe they did not feel the club has fostered an environment where major decisions by senior personnel can be freely challenged. This is something the club refute.

On Monday night, some United supporters protested against Greenwood’s possible return at Old Trafford and a banner made, in United’s colours, sported the message: “Female Fans Demand No Greenwood Return – End Violence Against Women”.

A Manchester United club statement, that was also sent to staff, said: “Following the dropping of all charges against Mason Greenwood in February 2023, Manchester United has conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations made against him. This has drawn on extensive evidence and context not in the public domain, and we have heard from numerous people with direct involvement or knowledge of the case.

“Throughout this process, the welfare and perspective of the alleged victim has been central to the club’s inquiries, and we respect her right to lifelong anonymity. We also have responsibilities to Mason as an employee, as a young person who has been with the club since the age of seven, and as a new father with a partner.

“The fact-finding phase of our investigation is now complete, and we are in the final stages of making a decision on Mason’s future. Contrary to media speculation, that decision has not yet been made and is currently the subject of intensive internal deliberation. Responsibility ultimately rests with the Chief Executive Officer. Once made, the decision will be communicated and explained to the club’s internal and external stakeholders.

“This has been a difficult case for everyone associated with Manchester United, and we understand the strong opinions it has provoked based on the partial evidence in the public domain. We ask for patience as we work through the final stages of this carefully considered process.”

(Top photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)