More than a week has passed since Manchester United announced Mason Greenwood would no longer play for the club.
This decision followed a lengthy internal investigation, which started in February after the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued its case against Greenwood for attempted rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and controlling and coercive behaviour. Greenwood denied all the charges.
Chief executive Richard Arnold communicated a plan to bring the 21-year-old back to United to senior executives, but the club decided to let him go after receiving public criticism.
But if not a return to Old Trafford, then what?
Greenwood has not played since January 2022 but is under contract at United until 2025 and the club have the option to trigger an additional year to 2026. Greenwood was paid his £75,000-a-week wages throughout his suspension and will continue to be paid by United until he commands a similar sum elsewhere.
The club have already received interest from multiple clubs regarding Greenwood, but there has been very little in the public domain about a potential move and it is also very difficult to ascertain how much he is now worth.
When Greenwood broke through and scored 22 Premier League goals in 83 appearances, there was talk of him being a £100million player. In June 2021, CIES Football Observatory generated the estimated transfer value of 100 players competing in Europe’s five biggest leagues (England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) and Greenwood was valued at €178m (£152.3m), second behind only Manchester City’s Phil Foden (€190m; £162.6m).
The chances of United generating such a fee are long gone and the rights and wrongs of accepting any sizeable sum for him to leave would be a matter of intense debate. But you would not expect United to simply want to give him away for nothing, especially as he would represent pure profit in their accounts — therefore helping them with financial fair play restrictions — because he is an academy product.
The club have already made clear that any decision regarding Greenwood’s future will be made in collaboration with the player. Ultimately, Greenwood will have the final say because he would have to sign a contract elsewhere.
So, with the transfer windows in England and Scotland shutting at 11pm (6pm ET, 3pm PT) on Friday, where does this leave the United forward?
The Athletic assesses the options open to the club and the player…
The first possible, albeit increasingly unlikely, outcome is that another Premier League club attempts to sign Greenwood on loan or permanently before the window closes.
Given the backlash United received when it became evident they intended to bring him back, it would be a bold call for another top-flight team to make a move. The same could be said for clubs in the English Football League and Scotland.
But if he is not loaned or sold ahead of the 11pm deadline, there is still a chance for the striker to leave United given transfer windows — the periods twice a year during which clubs can make changes to their squads — shut at various times across Europe and further afield.
Turkey’s, for example, remains open until September 15, giving clubs in the Super Lig an additional two weeks compared to their English rivals to buy and sell players. This could work in Greenwood’s favour as Turkey has long appeared as a possible destination.
Saudi Arabian clubs can trade players until September 7, while Qatari sides can complete deals up to September 18. Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, has been mooted as a landing spot for Greenwood.
If United get to a stage where Greenwood is still their player in three weeks’ time, then they will need to work through another set of options.
The most obvious one is that Greenwood, who will not be returning to the club’s Carrington training base, continues building his fitness away from United in preparation for the January transfer window.
When the winter trading period opens on January 1, United can once again look to loan or sell the striker.
Another option open to Manchester United would be to find a settlement with Greenwood and terminate his contract early. That would allow him to join another club as a free agent.
This, however, comes with its complications. United can only deregister a player when their transfer window is open, meaning they would need to find a settlement and terminate his deal before 11pm Friday.
But if they were to cancel Greenwood’s contract next week, for example, then he could still join another team as long as their transfer window is open. Each player has an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and it is this that is transferred between clubs.
If his contract is is terminated when all the transfer windows are shut, then Greenwood would have to wait until January before he could join a new team as United would not be able to deregister him until then.
In that sense, a player’s status can only be changed during the registration period of the club he’s going to or leaving from.
Whatever happens in the coming days, weeks or months regarding Greenwood’s future, it will be difficult for the player, a new club, and United to navigate.
But all parties knew that was going to be the case once it was announced his career was going to continue away from Old Trafford.
(Top photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
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Dan Sheldon is a football news reporter for The Athletic, covering Manchester City and Manchester United. He spent four years writing about Southampton FC, two of which were at the Southern Daily Echo. Follow Dan on Twitter @dansheldonsport