Greenwood is a talent, but United must consider next move carefully

Mason Greenwood is a huge talent, but Manchester United must consider their next move very carefully… Erik ten Hag is facing one of the biggest dilemmas of his managerial career

  • The attempted rape and assault charges against Greenwood have been dropped 
  • Erik ten Hag now faces a tough balancing act in working out what to do next 
  • Many issues must be considered when deciding if he plays for the club again 

Some 250 days since he arrived at Manchester United, Erik ten Hag faces one of his biggest dilemmas. The only consolation is he does not have to handle it alone.

The issue of Mason Greenwood and whether he should ever be invited to play for United again hung heavy over Ten Hag’s weekly press conference yesterday. The United manager quite sensibly did not get involved with an issue that remains legally sensitive. Three times he was asked and three times he said no. It was a pretty emphatic hat-trick.

Ten Hag will be at the heart of the Old Trafford discussions about Greenwood and what to do with him, however. While the club must balance the benefits of having a very good player — and potential asset for sale — back on the field against the publicity and pushback from some sponsors and supporters that would bring.

Ten Hag must look purely at the football. His squad could do with a little more depth, for sure. Greenwood remains a natural scorer of goals. But the Dutchman has worked hard at changing the dressing room culture at United since arriving at the end of last season. He believes he has an atmosphere that works. He may well consider that a return for the 21-year-old would place that at risk.

While making clear that he was not talking about Greenwood in this context, Ten Hag was happy to discuss culture yesterday and he stressed he will not allow anything to jeopardise something he has improved markedly since, for example, the removal of Paul Pogba and then Cristiano Ronaldo.

In deciding what to do with Mason Greenwood, Erik ten Hag faces a very significant dilemma

Greenwood was charged with attempted rape and assault but they have since been dropped

‘It’s really important but sometimes you do get issues that as a club and team you have to deal with it,’ said Ten Hag. ‘We have standards and values. We have to live along those high standards and values and that gives a base if you have a good culture and spirit.

‘That’s our job — not to get distracted by anything. We are human beings and sometimes there are issues. We are not like robots but we have to focus. We have so many games so we don’t have time to get distracted by anything. It’s not easy but that is our job.’

Greenwood was not at United’s training ground at Carrington yesterday and will not be at Old Trafford today when Ten Hag’s team face Crystal Palace in a rare Saturday 3pm kick-off. United would be best advised to reach a decision soon, though.

Ten Hag was not even manager of the club when Greenwood was arrested and accused of attempted rape, coercion and assault occasioning actual bodily harm last January. Yesterday he would not even confirm whether he had met the player.

‘I can’t say anything about it,’ he said. ‘I refer to the statement of the club and at this moment I can’t add anything.’

Nevertheless, this remains a subject potentially sensitive enough to cause United problems in the latter part of a season that has recently been running unusually smoothly.

With Greenwood now free of the charges, which were dropped on Thursday, he is technically available to pick up a career that once looked likely to propel him skywards for United and indeed with England.

Ten Hag could doubtless do with a little more depth in attack. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle all invested during the transfer window while United made two loan signings, the forward Wout Weghorst and the midfielder Marcel Sabitzer.

Greenwood is a highly-talented footballer but United must weigh up several key issues when deciding what to do with him and whether to ever allow him to play for the club again

‘Of course we need players to cover the schedule because there is a limit on every player,’ said Ten Hag. ‘But we have a depth in our squad. Maybe not that far as other teams but that also has something to do with your approach to it and how you do your load management. If you do that right, we can go far.

‘I don’t prefer a huge squad because also that gives problems. In the front line until now we had some problems with quantity. Not in the quality but with the availability of the players. You definitely need numbers there if you want to cover all the games and you want to be successful.’

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