‘If United take partial credit for the man Marcus Rashford has become, they must also take some responsibility for Mason Greenwood, writes Martin Samuel’

The Times caused some anger on Saturday evening as they Tweeted an article about Mason Greenwood. At the time of writing, the message had 25 RTs and 356 Quote Tweets, a balance of figures which usually means the ratio of agreement was not positive.

Many takes in football can be controversial and displeasing, but still accurate. This was not one of those times.

Additionally, there is always the danger of a headline or a Tweet doing disservice to a journalist. They didn’t really mean that, their view was far more nuanced and reasonable, it was just a case of baiting people into it.

If this was bait it was a mere wriggly worm compared to the critter waiting.

Martin Samuel has explained to his audience that neither Liverpool nor Manchester City are going to sign Mason Greenwood. But a club in such a ‘desperate state’ as Everton may well consider it.

The Times’ journalist is surely aware that even if Manchester United released their player today, he could not help Everton out of their desperate state this season… because football has rules and such. Like life, really.

Samuel believes Manchester United ‘could make it difficult’ for those ‘opportunistically circling’ to sign Greenwood.

The Old Trafford club would do this by releasing him, paying up his contract, and putting out a statement which would ‘throw the player under a bus’.

And how would the Red Devils be throwing him under a double-decker? By protecting their ‘public image and reputation’, explaining what a ‘modern club stands for’, and speaking about the ‘rise of the women’s team’.

How he didn’t manage to use the word WOKE is either a great feat of self restraint or a rare example of editing.

Despite all of that, Samuel believes there may not be the appetite at Manchester United for such a stance. This is partly based on the player being at the club since he was a ‘smiling little boy’, and whether people there will wish to turn their backs on him ‘no matter what we believe we have seen or heard’.

Other than feeling club employees may manage to ignore their ears and eyes, Samuel thinks there’s another big reason the Premier League side see a way to redemption.

That’s quotes from Erik ten Hag. Or, shall we say “quotes”.

The Times article quotes the manager as saying: “Let’s wait for the judgement. If he’s proven innocent, he would get a place in my team.”

Such quotes appeared around the time of Ten Hag’s first Manchester United press conference. There’s been a few versions of them since, usually shared on social media and quickly dismissed as fake.

Neil Custis used the quotes in an article for The Sun a couple of days ago, but no other recognised media outlet has done so. Ever.

There is no firm trace of the quotes and they appear to have originated on Twitter or Facebook.

Without any firm evidence Ten Hag actually said the words, the veracity is in the eye of the beholder.

And here we come to Samuel’s summing up, based on all of that (and remember this is The Times): ‘For if United would take partial credit for the admired man Marcus Rashford MBE has become, they must also take a measure of responsibility for a player that loss his path.’

The lack of class to drag Marcus Rashford into the situation will no doubt be of annoyance to the Premier League Player of the Month. That’s where we should leave that, given that, unlike The Times, we don’t have lawyers on call.

But let’s say what can be said.

We all heard the recordings, we all saw the images.

In the UK, we’re all too aware of the difficulty of building charges for sexual and domestic abuse. All too aware of the shockingly low conviction standards, something that Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Crown Prosecutor, – who Samuel very selectively quotes in his article – made very clear this week.

Samuel more than suggests he feels Manchester United would be somehow out of line if they simply speak out against such abuse, make their morals regarding it clear, and, steady, speak about the impact it may have on women who work for them.

That could, he says, be throwing Mason Greenwood ‘under the bus’.

Priorities are priorities. Morals are morals.

And if Samuel of The Times is so concerned about Manchester United being responsible for every action of every youth product, then maybe he needs to think twice before discouraging them from speaking about ‘what a modern club stands for’.

Let’s face it, if they do not and a similar situation arises before the journalist retires, Martin Samuel will be right there explaining how the club has brought it on themselves.