Will Mason Greenwood play for Manchester United again?
Mason Greenwood could soon be playing again.
Whether the striker does – and where – remains unclear, despite the rape and assault charges against him being dropped.
Manchester United wants time to consider the fate of the 21-year-old.
One of the key elements in its assessment may be whether the club’s sponsors would accept Greenwood wearing their logos, a lawyer told Sky News.
For a year, Manchester United has left the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after the player was accused of attempted rape and assault in an investigation launched after allegations surfaced in video and images.
The CPS said it had a “duty to stop the case” following the “withdrawal of key witnesses and new material that came to light”.
Greenwood was on the way to being a key part of the Old Trafford team when his career was halted in January 2022 by the opening of the criminal investigation.
He has remained under de facto suspension since, agreeing to stay away from training and not play.
Sponsors, including Nike, were quicker to cut ties with him.
But Manchester United has to assess whether Greenwood’s conduct towards a woman should prevent him from playing for them again.
Simon Leaf, a lawyer and head of sport at Mishcon de Reya, told Sky News: “Manchester United do really find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
“On the one hand, they will be looking at the contract and whether they’ve got the right to terminate it.
“On the other hand, if they do take action and they do terminate the contract wrongfully, then they could well find themselves subject to a further claim by Mason Greenwood himself, who would potentially have the right to bring a claim for wrongful termination, which would effectively lead to the club having to pay out the full value of his contract.”
A graduate of the Manchester United academy, Greenwood would find somewhere in the world wanting him in their team.
And with a contract until 2025, he would once have been valued at tens of millions of pounds.
Cancelling that contract would prove costly for Manchester United, but could be the right decision morally, in their minds, even though Greenwood has not been convicted.
It could be determined by whether Manchester United’s sponsors can accept seeing Greenwood adorned with their logos, and the prospect of protests against him playing – including by the club’s own fans.
Mr Leaf said: “Manchester United is one of the most valuable brands in world football and their commercial partnerships are particularly important to the club.
“Many of those partnerships will include very strict anti-embarrassment clauses which would effectively allow a sponsor to walk away if they don’t feel that the club has dealt with this kind of situation correctly and has caused them and the club sponsor further embarrassment.
“So they will be very mindful of that when looking at the Mason Greenwood situation when considering whether they do need to take more decisive action to make sure their sponsors continue associating themselves with the club.”
It is a complex situation for Manchester United to navigate, just as the future of the club is in flux with the owning Glazer family searching for investors – potentially leading to a sale.
Mr Leaf said: “Clearly the present owners won’t want to do anything that may affect the value that they are able to achieve on the market.
“It’s a really delicate balance that they are going to need to take over the coming days and weeks on this particular matter.”
Manchester United has set no timeframe for the internal process that will determine whether one of its brightest prospects ever plays for the club again.
Greenwood has only said that he is “relieved that this matter is now over” – offering no indication of any determination to resume his playing career.