CHRIS WHEELER: Mason Greenwood’s arrest has plunged Man Utd into crisis. Players and staff are shocked and appalled… nobody knows how to deal with a situation like this and Friday’s FA Cup match will be played against a disturbing backdrop
- Greenwood’s team-mates are appalled by leaked audio and images online
- His re-arrest has plunged the club into shock ahead of Friday’s FA Cup match
- A number of senior players have unfollowed Greenwood on social media
- Even for a club of United’s size, this crisis is uncharted territory
When Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick sat down for a meeting with football director John Murtough at the club’s Carrington training ground on Monday morning, there was more than just deadline day transfer business on the agenda.
United were still reeling from the news of Mason Greenwood’s arrest 24 hours earlier and the potential consequences for the player and his club.
Greenwood was released on bail on Wednesday morning pending further investigation after he was held on suspicion of rape sexual assault and making threats to kill.
Mason Greenwood’s arrest an leaked images and audio online have shocked team-mates
United are having to refocus on their game against Middlesbrough in tough circumstances
Harry Maguire (left), Marcus Rashford and Co are training under a cloud with the club in crisis
Even for a club of United’s stature, one that is more than accustomed to the glare of publicity, it has been a traumatic few days. Players and staff are said to be ‘shocked and appalled’ by the images and audio clip that were leaked on social media over the weekend.
A number of them including Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and David de Gea appear to have stopped following Greenwood on social media.
It is one of the misconceptions about professional sport that teammates are automatically close friends away from the pitch. Greenwood is younger than most of the senior squad and known to keep to himself around the club.
United, meanwhile, have been plunged into crisis far beyond any of the dramas that have unfolded at Old Trafford this season.
‘Everyone is very shaken up,’ said one source. ‘This is very different to the normal things they have to deal with.’
Aside from the most serious issue of a criminal investigation, United have to consider the implications for the club and that is understood to have been discussed between Rangnick and Murtough on Monday.
United had moved swiftly to announce that Greenwood would not play for them or train at Carrington until further notice, but nobody could predict what happens next.
It’s only logical that his suspension figured in the decision to keep Jesse Lingard for the rest of the season after Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek and Amad Diallo were allowed out on loan.
United cannot ignore the fact that they could be without Greenwood for the time being. One of the brightest prospects in the English game who was recently valued at around £100million.
Greenwood was re-arrested after allegations of sexual assault and threats to kill
Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo (above) and Paul Pogba have unfollowed Greenwood on social media
But the unfortunate events of the past few days extend far beyond football and one man’s playing career.
They could have a profound impact on young lives, and Greenwood has already had a glimpse of what that may entail.
He has disappeared from United’s online merchandise shop and versions of FIFA ’22. Nike have suspended his sponsorship deal and one of United’s official partners, Cadbury, says it will not use him in any marketing products ‘while these allegations are being investigated’.
On Wednesday, the club’s official logistics partner DHL became the latest sponsor to issue a statement, saying: ‘We are aware of the recent allegations against Manchester United footballer, Mason Greenwood.
Manchester United removed all Mason Greenwood merchandise from their club on Monday after his allegations of rape and assault on Sunday
‘While we do not tolerate any kind of violence, we will not be commenting on the situation while the investigation is ongoing.
‘Our partnership with Manchester United encompasses the team, the club and the global brand, and not one specific individual.’
Meanwhile, Rangnick and the rest of the squad are back in training and must try to focus on a FA Cup fourth round tie against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford on Friday night.
It will be played against a disturbing backdrop. The winter break has not turned out how anyone at United could possibly have imagined.
Ralf Rangnick must try to get his squad to focus on football and the upcoming FA Cup game