A group of Manchester United supporters is planning a series of protests to make it clear they do not want Mason Greenwood to be reintegrated into the club’s plans.
The protestors, all regular Old Trafford match-goers, intend to make their feelings clear outside the stadium before United’s opening game of the season at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.
A banner has been made in United’s colours with the message: “Female Fans Demand No Greenwood Return – End Violence Against Women.”
“It’s time for the club to stand up and make the right decision,” one of the organisers told The Athletic, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fears of being targeted by Greenwood’s supporters. “It’s time to say, ‘We have high standards at United about how we expect players to conduct themselves and, if you do not meet those standards, you need to be moved out.’
“This is a tipping point for the club. Are they going to side with commercialism and trophies and money? Or are they going to take the side of match-going fans and the club being a social and community institution that we can be proud of, and proud to have as part of our identity?”
Greenwood, 21, has not played for United since he was arrested in January 2022 relating to a tape being released on social media of an alleged sexual attack.
He subsequently faced a police investigation resulting in charges against him for attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Greenwood denied all the alleged offences.
With a trial date set for the end of the year, the charges were dropped at the start of February and the Crown Prosecution Service said “a combination of the withdrawal of key witnesses and new material meant there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.”
United have been conducting their own investigation since that decision and an announcement is expected shortly on whether or not he has a future at the club. The protestors are bracing themselves for potential news that he will be given another chance to redeem himself.
In the scenario that Greenwood stays, United are understood to have discussed a phased process that would include encouraging the player to receive counselling, as well as the possibility of exposing him to a television interview in which he is challenged on the events that have brought him to this point.
Ultimately, the decision is expected to rest with chief executive Richard Arnold, based on a report carried out by other executives.
United say they will take into account the views of fans but, with the growing impression that Greenwood will remain contracted to the club, there is the first indication that many supporters intend to make their opposition clear.
Protestors intend to gather at the Holy Trinity statue outside Old Trafford before Monday’s game and ask for backing from the large number of people who will be taking part in a demonstration, organised by the 1958 pressure group, against the Glazer family’s ownership of the club.
A statement will be released and the people behind the Greenwood protest intend to launch a Twitter account to explain why they believe he should not be allowed to wear the club’s colours again.
Although the group will largely be fronted by female fans, organisers hope and expect to receive backing from supporters of all genders. The women behind the protest may want to remain anonymous for the time being but overall they have been encouraged by the early feedback.
“One thing I’ve been really proud about is how united the match-going fanbase has been on this issue,” says one of the women behind the banner. “There is potentially a bit of a divide with the online fanbase, who have been more supportive of Greenwood. But there seems to be genuine unity among the match-going fans. The nature of the audio means people have been really unified in being outraged and disgusted by it.”
She added: “As female fans, we have always been slightly marginalised. Sometimes your voice is ignored and you don’t get taken as seriously as others. On an issue like this, it feels like an attack on all of us. We have to be hopeful the club do the right thing because, if Greenwood did come back, it would be serious enough to make many fans re-evaluate their relationship with the club.”
Nike has dropped Greenwood as a sponsored athlete and some of United’s sponsors have conveyed their feelings about his employment to the club. The situation remains complicated, though, with a widespread belief that there has been a split in opinion, at times, between the football side of operations and the club’s commercial department.
It is a complex, polarising issue and it just needs a cursory look through social media to realise that many fans believe Greenwood should be allowed back given that the case against him collapsed and he has not been convicted of any crime.
Greenwood, who is suspended on full pay, has been taking part in an individually tailored training programme for several months, away from the club’s training ground. Legally, he no longer has a case to answer. But the protestors say that is “a cop out” and point out there have been other examples of him damaging the club’s reputation.
“You want to be proud of your players,” says one, a home-and-away fan for many years. “You want to cheer them on and sing their names. But how do you cheer goals from a player who has behaved horrifically?
“He has been handed everything on a plate, he has been given every opportunity, every form of support and he has thrown it away. It’s not just this issue. There were lockdown parties that led to the police being involved. He was thrown out of the England camp for not sticking to the rules. It stinks of an attitude of entitlement and egotism.”