What do Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s comments mean for Mason Greenwood’s Man United future?


Sir Jim Ratcliffe reopened the debate about Mason Greenwood’s Manchester United career last week when he said: “It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. The process will be to understand the facts, not the hype, and then try to come to a fair decision based on values — is he a good guy or not and answer whether could he play sincerely for Manchester United well and would we be comfortable with it and would the fans be comfortable with it?”

Before meeting the media on his first day as United co-owner, Ratcliffe knew he would be asked about Greenwood, so had an answer in mind. His view is that, as with all other aspects of the club, his INEOS team, spearheaded by Sir Dave Brailsford, will take a fresh look and decide for themselves how to proceed.

But equally, this was not a case of Ratcliffe repeating a rehearsed selection of words. When pressed, he elaborated organically, possibly more than intended. Choosing to call the reaction around Greenwood’s potential reintroduction “hype” felt to some like the wrong characterisation.

At Old Trafford, there were a few deep breaths at returning to a subject that caused such turmoil last summer. The outright rebellion that met United’s original plan, under former chief executive Richard Arnold, to reintegrate Greenwood has not emerged yet, but staff members have voiced unease at a possible turnaround. There is no sense the strength of feeling that forced a U-turn in August has dissipated in the intervening months.

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe on Man United, Old Trafford, Sheikh Jassim and Mason Greenwood: Full transcript

Greenwood had been subject to an internal club investigation following a decision in February by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to discontinue its case against him for attempted rape, assault, and coercive control after key witnesses withdrew their cooperation from the investigation. He denied all the alleged offences.

Back then, United’s statement on Greenwood’s future read like a farewell: “All those involved, including Mason, recognise the difficulties with him recommencing his career at Manchester United. 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.”

The idea he would not play again for United was backed up by strong private briefings to that end. It was, though, only ever expressed as an expectation and, in any case, Arnold has left, so there are new people making calls who are not beholden to what was announced by a previous regime.

Here, The Athletic attempts to unpick what Ratcliffe said and where Greenwood might end up. Comments have been turned off for legal reasons.


Why did Ratcliffe say anything on the matter?

The 71-year-old billionaire was introducing himself to United fans via the media and told journalists that no topic was off limits. He aims to run United’s football operations through plain speaking — as evidenced by his private addresses to staff, fans, and players — and communicating in a way the Glazers never did. So, he did not want to dodge the Greenwood issue, however delicate.

His fullest answer came at the fifth variation of the question. It was part of a conversation where, at times, it sounded like he was closing the door as much as opening it.

Speaking about “the principle” rather than specifically on Greenwood, he said: “We need to make a fair decision in light of the club’s values.”

Ratcliffe


Ratcliffe’s investment into Manchester United finally became official last week (Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

But he also said, again generally: “You are dealing with young people who have not always been brought up in the best circumstances, who have a lot of money and who don’t always have the guidance they should have.”

Trying to detect his intentions on Greenwood is difficult, but a situation that previously seemed done is live again.

What is the reality?

Ratcliffe and Brailsford are taking a fresh look at the matter and though they are aware of the highly sensitive situation, have not ruled out a Greenwood return, according to sources who, like others referenced in this piece, were speaking anonymously to protect relationships. They are said to understand that if Greenwood played for United again, fans would require an explanation. They have also resolved to come to a decision and stick to it, mindful to avoid a repeat of the conflicting messages that came out of United last August.

If Ratcliffe does end up selling Greenwood, United’s negotiating hand would be strengthened by the prospect of him returning to the club. Only Ratcliffe knows whether he was being as calculated as that, but in any transfer, there is no financial benefit to telling the world you do not want a player. Sources say that was one aspect of his thinking.

Last summer, members of the United hierarchy gave the impression they would not seek to profit from Greenwood’s departure. The terms were very accommodating, with a clause entitling Getafe to a 20 per cent cut of any sale to another club — the reward for giving Greenwood games in La Liga and enabling his market value to build back up. At the end of the summer window, when he was something of a pariah, his fee was negligible.

With several teams, including Barcelona, tracking his performances in Spain, Greenwood, 22, has scored seven goals and registered five assists in 25 games. As a result, United could command a sizeable fee for him. Ratcliffe is not bound by previous statements about the club forgoing money for him.

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A sale would go down as pure profit in United’s calculations for the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules or UEFA’s financial fair play regulations.

United have kept in regular contact with the player and his family and executives are planning to fly to Madrid to meet with Getafe counterparts to discuss the next steps.

Getafe do not know what United intend to do, but they would like to keep Greenwood — either permanently or on loan, as long as the price remains “low”. Under the terms of their loan agreement, they would only have to pay 80 per cent of any agreed transfer fee.

United football director John Murtough held talks with Greenwood’s dad, Andrew, who primarily handles his affairs, at Carrington a fortnight ago.

Does Greenwood want to come back?

Ratcliffe’s words have reached Greenwood, but sources with an understanding of the player’s thinking say that even if United could facilitate a return, he would be reluctant to accept. Whatever the public perception, he felt United could have supported him better over his case and is said to harbour no great desire to play for the club again.

He also recognises he would face greater pressure and scrutiny if he returned, and staying in La Liga therefore holds major appeal.

Greenwood was home in Manchester over Christmas, but he is enjoying life in Madrid, where he is mainly away from the spotlight, joined by his partner and their baby, as well as visits from friends and family, and surrounded by a supportive fanbase. There was the Jude Bellingham flashpoint but nothing like the attention that would greet Greenwood in England.

So where could he go?

A club in La Liga appears the likeliest outcome given Greenwood has settled in Spain and shown he can score there.

Getafe are happy with him and wish to explore options, although sources in the dressing room believe he may be priced out of staying at the club.

It had been planned that Angel Torres, the president, and Ruben Reyes, the sporting director, would travel to Carrington, but now Getafe staff are thinking about inviting United personnel to the match against Girona on March 16 or Sevilla on March 30. Meeting up during the international break in between is another option. Getafe executives have been in regular contact with United counterparts besides these meetings.

Greenwood’s contract runs to 2025, with a club option for an extra year. Triggering that would maintain Greenwood’s value given it is easier to get a good fee for a player with two years left than one.

(Top photo: Diego Souto/Getty Images)





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