Speaking ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Chelsea towards the end of October, boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that the English press were ‘going after’ Mason Greenwood.
Solskjaer also denied reports that the young Englishman has been showing up late to training and added that he ‘couldn’t believe’ there were concerns over his professionalism.
Greenwood has started just two of United’s five games since Solskjaer’s comments, but despite not being involved as much as was expected, he has continued to dominate the headlines.
The 19-year-old made a mistake while away with England at the start of September, there’s absolutely no denying that. But both he and Phil Foden issued apologises, while England boss Gareth Southgate also handled the situation as he saw fit. The matter was closed, Greenwood and Foden had learned their lesson. Or at least it should have been closed.
But day after day, the rhetoric regarding Greenwood has completely changed. The United number 11 went from being described as a ‘generational talent’ with the world at his feet to very quickly being a lazy and unprofessional ‘boy’ with plenty of maturing to do.
Most recently, an article was published claiming that Man Utd are ‘fearing’ Greenwood could throw his career away like Ravel Morrison. The report adds that ‘officials’ at the club are desperate to not see him waste his potential, which is why Solskjaer and his staff have come up with a plan to help support him.
But part of the (major) problem with a number of the reports in recent weeks which have recklessly criticised Greenwood and falsely accused him of being lazy and unprofessional is that they haven’t factored in what he has needed to deal with mentally away from football. In any way, shape or form. This lack of compassion and recognition has been simply startling.
Greenwood recently lost a close friend in Jeremy Wisten, who tragically passed away after leaving Manchester City. Something that somehow continues to be ignored and overlooked is that ultimately, footballers are humans – they aren’t robots, who simply have no emotion and their lives revolve solely around football.
The forward has needed time to process and deal with the loss of someone close to him, but how is he supposed to do this when he is constantly being targeted and chastised at this moment in time?
To make matters even worse, ‘reports’ emerged earlier in November claiming that a Premier League footballer had been arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse. And guess whose name came up? Yep, that’s right, Greenwood again. This is despite the fact that the Englishman had been active on social media around this time, while it was even confirmed that the player arrested was in his 20s.
Again, Greenwood is 19. How are such accusations acceptable? The answer: they really, really aren’t.
Sure, football fans love seeing young and hugely talented players make a name for themselves, sparking discussions about which ‘wonderkid’ is better. Is it Gabriel Martinelli or Mason Greenwood? Or maybe Bukayo Saka? And Greenwood not only made a name for himself in 2019/20, he also announced himself as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe, after netting 17 times that term.
But right now, it shouldn’t be about how many goals Greenwood scores and why he hasn’t been called up to play for England. Instead, it should be about coming together to support one of the nation’s brightest young talents during this difficult time, and respecting the fact that he may need time to come to terms with everything that has happened.
Greenwood himself has hinted via his social media that he is fully aware of the completely unnecessary and unjustified criticism he has been on the receiving end of. He has liked a number of posts which have alluded to the ongoing witch hunt against him, as well as other accounts making clear they are fully supporting him during this time.
There’s no denying Greenwood made a mistake while away with England, but he owned up to that mistake – that should have been the end of it. Instead, he’s needed to deal with false accusation after false accusation for far too long now, and this simply must stop.
United have made a point of managing Greenwood’s media activity despite his stunning performances in order to protect him. And they should be doing everything they can to support the teenager and help him navigate through this tough time.
Contrary to what some may say, football isn’t everything. It’s a major part of athletes’ lives, but no, it isn’t everything. And equally, there are certain times when an issue is far greater than any sporting rivalry – and this is one of those times. The footballing world must unite to show their support for one of the country’s brightest young talents.