Manchester United have abandoned their plan to bring back Mason Greenwood to the club’s first team following a public backlash.

The club faced mounting criticism from inside and outside after The Athletic reported last Wednesday that United chief executive Richard Arnold held a meeting with the club’s executive leadership in the first week of August to inform them the plan was for Greenwood to return.

United insisted last week a decision “had not yet been made” but, in light of the strong critical reaction to the revelations in the story and further reporting from The Athletic, the club held crisis talks on Friday. They have since decided not to reintegrate Greenwood with the first team at this stage.

“All those involved, including Mason, recognise the difficulties with him recommencing his career at Manchester United,” a club statement on Monday read. “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.”



Mason Greenwood and Manchester United: The U-turn - what happened and why

The club, and Arnold himself, have received emails of criticism from United supporters in recent days, voicing their concerns over the possible reinstatement of the 21-year-old, who has not played for United since January 22, 2022.

Greenwood had been subject to an internal investigation from United since February when the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) discontinued its case against him for attempted rape, assault, and coercive control.

The CPS said there was “no longer a realistic prospect of conviction” after key witnesses withdrew their cooperation from the investigation. Greenwood denied all the alleged offences.


Greenwood arrives at court in November (Photo: Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

Speaking for the first time since the case was dropped, Greenwood reiterated that stance while admitting to “mistakes” and wanting “to take my share of responsibility”.

He said: “Today’s decision has been part of a collaborative process between Manchester United, my family and me. The best decision for us all, is for me to continue my football career away from Old Trafford, where my presence will not be a distraction for the club. I thank the club for their support since I joined aged seven. There will always be a part of me which is United.

“I am enormously grateful to my family and all my loved ones for their support, and it is now for me to repay the trust those around me have shown. I intend to be a better footballer, but most importantly a good father, a better person, and to use my talents in a positive way on and off the pitch.”

Some members of staff were prepared to consider their positions at United in the event Greenwood returned and others began to explore going on strike or resigning.

Several members of parliament criticised the proposed return, as did Women’s Aid, a charity which supports women and children, after The Athletic revealed the club had not engaged with charities specialising in abuse against women to help inform their internal process.

Internal risk assessment documents prepared by the club had categorised external stakeholders, such as politicians, football pundits and individual journalists, and made assumptions as to whether they would view Greenwood’s return as supportively or with hostility. Charities that specialise in violence against women were assumed to be “hostile”.

Women’s Aid replied to a post from The Athletic with the following: “‘Hostile’ is an inappropriate way to describe domestic & sexual abuse charities in stakeholder mapping, but especially in this case. We have worked on our football campaign for over 10 years, & work with both clubs & orgs, on an issue that is prevalent throughout our society.”

The re-think by the club followed further reporting by The Athletic on Friday, which demonstrated just how advanced the club’s planning for Greenwood’s return had become.

For example, United had prepared documents outlining the type of images that should be taken of the player during training sessions and planned how manager Erik ten Hag should handle questions during an anticipated media storm.

  • Man United told senior staff that Greenwood will return
  • United’s Greenwood return plan included list of ‘hostile’ figures

On Friday, Andrew Western, Member of Parliament for Stretford and Urmston, sent a message on social media, which was in reply to The Athletic ’s most recent article, that said: “Really disappointed at how United have handled this.

“They should be focused on making the correct decision, speaking up in support of victims of domestic abuse & sexual assault, and acting with integrity. The club must realise this isn’t a PR crisis it’s about doing what’s right.”

I’ve spent years struggling to get clubs, leagues & governing bodies to take violence against women & girls more seriously.
To use the power & reach of football to take the @WhiteRibbon_UK & @WhiteRibbonScot message to men.@ManUtd’s actions are abhorrent reckless & dangerous.

— Gavin Newlands MP 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇺🇦 (@GavNewlandsSNP) August 18, 2023

The prominent British television presenter Rachel Riley on Thursday warned she would not continue to support the club if Greenwood returned and her social media posts were sent between staff members at the club.

Greenwood, who was barred from Carrington for the duration of the club’s investigation and instead trained privately in full knowledge of United, was absent from the pre-season tour of the United States earlier this summer where Ten Hag revealed he was open to the prospect of Greenwood returning to United’s squad, but said the club would make the ultimate call.

“Of course, I have said my ideas and opinions but it’s a club decision,” Ten Hag said, in New Jersey on the first day of United’s summer tour. “We all have to accept that.”

The Athletic has since reported that both Ten Hag and the club’s football director John Murtough were supporting and encouraging of Greenwood’s return, which United have never denied.

Greenwood had been the subject of loan interest from clubs in Italy, and came up in conversations with Atalanta around Rasmus Hojlund, who United went on to sign in a €75million plus €10m deal.

Greenwood has been at United since the age of seven, and has gone on to make 129 appearances since his debut in 2019, scoring 35 goals.

(Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)