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Voices: Mason Greenwood is a sickening example of how football clubs only care about one thing

Mason Greenwood has always denied committing the offences with which he was charged but did accept making some mistakes  (PA)
Mason Greenwood has always denied committing the offences with which he was charged but did accept making some mistakes (PA)

Wouldn’t it be great to hear a new, senior voice in football attempting to change the narrative, to forge a new way – a narrative driven by a moral compass that sees footballers held to account for their actions both on and off the pitch?

Enter stage left: Jim Ratcliffe, new part-owner of Manchester United. Most people stepping into this kind of role do so, presumably, to make some kind of financial gain. Not Ratcliffe. He’s been crystal clear from the start that he’s “not interested in the financial aspects of this investment at all, really”.

Why’s that, Jim? “Because I make enough money in chemicals and oil and gas.”

Ahem. Steering sharply back to the topic of football.

With a total investment of nearly £1.3bn in the club, it would seem to indicate he’s pretty serious about Manchester United. So what is he in it for if it’s not a good return on investment?

Well, he’s a fan first and foremost. He says he’s interested in seeing the club “be successful again”. Fair enough. As a primary driver, this makes for a good starting point, and one that the fans broadly appear to be comfortable with.

But how exactly will he help the club achieve success? Well, yesterday he gave some initial indications when he spoke, among other things, about the possibility of Mason Greenwood returning to Old Trafford.

To be fair to Ratcliffe, he appears to have some kind of grasp on the world he has boldly stepped into when he says: “You are dealing with young people who have not always been brought up in the best circumstances, who have a lot of money and don’t always have the guidance they should have.”

While there’s nothing to suggest Greenwood’s upbringing was problematic, you might say he fits the rest of this characterisation pretty well. Last year, he was charged with attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and controlling and coercive behaviour, following social media posts which appeared to reveal the now 22-year-old forcing himself upon a woman. The charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service last February.

Then last summer, Manchester United conducted an internal investigation into Greenwood, the conclusion of which seemed to indicate his career at the club would be over. He joined Spanish club Getafe on loan, following a mutual agreement by the club and Greenwood that his career should continue “away from Old Trafford”.

So what is it that now supersedes the results of that investigation which concluded that “the material posted online did not provide a full picture and that Mason did not commit the offences in respect of which he was originally charged”, but that it would be best for all concerned if he continued his career elsewhere? (We don’t know what the club’s detailed conclusions were, as it never made them public.)

Greenwood has always denied committing the offences with which he was charged but did accept making some mistakes.

It strikes me, quite simply, that the club is now kicking itself for letting Greenwood disappear off into the Spanish sunset where, in 21 appearances for Getafe, he’s scored five goals and assisted five more in LaLiga. His impressive performances have even seen him linked to a move to Barcelona.

So really, it seems this is all about Manchester United setting aside the past and bringing a player back simply because he’s needed on the pitch. Another sickening example of how, when it comes to the Premier League, players aren’t held to account for their actions off the pitch as long as they’re scoring goals. And yes, they’ll get paid millions of pounds every month to live that life of privilege.

Ratcliffe’s personal scales of justice appear to be values-based. He says he would be willing to open the door to the prospect of welcoming Greenwood back, as long as the decision is based on “the club’s values”.

So, Ratcliffe, what exactly are those values? Wouldn’t it be useful for the club’s stakeholders to know what they are when decisions like this are being made? Currently, it feels like decisions about players like Greenwood are made deliberately behind a heavy curtain of secrecy. Marcus Rashford’s telling-off after calling in “sick” following a night out in Belfast was also shrouded in concealment by the club.

In many ways, though, Ratcliffe is onto something here. Surely, fans, shareholders, pundits and players deserve to understand what our clubs really stand for. If we truly want football to improve its moral standing and if the clubs truly want to take us on that journey, then surely increasing transparency is the key.

Transparency breeds trust. And trust, in turn, creates better relationships and better businesses. This is the win-win for football that we all need – for fans to believe their clubs are doing “the right thing”, for shareholders to see improved returns, and for players to know that there is a clear “value system” to uphold and live out through their behaviour, both on and off the pitch.

According to the club’s mission statement, Manchester United’s goal is to be “the best club in the world both on and off the pitch”. Well, come on, Ratcliffe, now is your chance to show us what that means. But this time, don’t do it all behind closed doors. Then you might really make a name for being the best club in the world.