Wed. Sep 23rd, 2020

Man Utd

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Manchester United star Mason Greenwood has already learnt from his mistake

5 min read

There was a startling story at the height of lockdown about a well-known English footballer hosting a house party but instructing their guests to leave phones outside to prevent any evidence surfacing. To this day, no pictures or videos have emerged from the gathering and no-one will ever know how many guests tested positive for COVID-19.

“Some think they are superhuman,” an agent said at the time. The suspicion was some footballers only requested a COVID test so they could flout lockdown rules and there was disappointment at how few wanted to be proactive in offering support.

All footballers are not so selfish. There was a trend of younger professionals, usually aged around 16 or 17, contacting their advisors and eager to make a difference. In early April, twins Josh and Jacob Murphy ventured out to deliver prescriptions to elderly residents in Norfolk as part of Downham Market volunteer group.

Manchester United were one of the leading clubs when it came to a duty of care: 30,000 items of food and drink were donated to local charities, club medical and protective supplies were available to local hospitals, Old Trafford facilities were open to the NHS, 60,000 meals were delivered to NHS staff and £50,000 was donated to local food banks.

An elderly neighbour of my wife’s parents enthused about a call he had received from the club checking on his well-being. The absence of football did not stop United from reconnecting with their local fanbase.

United were well within their rights to diplomatically express ‘disappointment’ at Mason Greenwood’s behaviour in Reykjavik. Their statement was shorter and tamer than Manchester City’s about Phil Foden but Greenwood should be braced for the Norwegian version of The Hairdryer whenever he next sees Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Greenwood was always going to be tested before reentering Carrington but sources at United say they ‘need to establish all the facts’ before deciding when he should be summoned to their training fortress.

This is not the first time Greenwood has been involved in a salacious social media snafu. A video his then-girlfriend uploaded went viral last September on the eve of Greenwood’s first European start against Astana but the media went easy on him, not even mentioning it at the pre-match press conference.

Greenwood has been off limits since he broke into the stratosphere. At a Maui Jim commercial event on the rooftop of the Fullerton Bay hotel in Singapore last year he did not speak when the compere asked him a question. Greenwood had lashed in the winner against Inter Milan the previous day but was never going to pause in the mixed zone.

He was still 17 at the time and those of us who accompanied the players and staff downstairs at the hotel glimpsed how immature Greenwood was. He shyly asked a press officer if he could relax away from the glare of cameras, and that was the reminder this was a lad who was still in Year 12.

Greenwood turns 19 next month and no longer of a school age. He has matured over the last year: the relationship with his girlfriend ended during lockdown and Greenwood filled out, returning to score five goals in eight Premier League starts and establishing himself as a first-teamer in a vibrant United attack.

The Iceland incident is Greenwood’s first true transgression and it is especially galling it has come so soon after inheriting the number 11 for his club and debuting for his country.

The mob is baying. A United official last week remarked Twitter was never a reliable gauge of supporters and those who are demanding Greenwood never play for his country again still probably lap up Paul Gascoigne’s dentist’s chair celebration.

It did not take long for videos of the two Icelandic girls to start doing the rounds on WhatsApp and two male voices can be heard during a phone conversation. Football is not short of Helen Lovejoys but Solskjaer has to be as headstrong as his mentor in disciplining Greenwood and not ‘give in to the mob’, as Ferguson refused to with Eric Cantona.

Greenwood scored 17 goals last season
Greenwood scored 17 goals last season

Solskjaer disciplined Jesse Lingard over his crass holiday video last year and Greenwood already appears to have learnt from the perils of social media by deactivating his Twitter account. The statement he issued on Tuesday morning was concise and contrite.

Lingard has had more social media strife than goals. Aside from the puerile bus video at West Ham, Remembrance Day was once commemorated with a celebratory picture of him overlapping a poppy, a tweet from his account was sent during the 60th anniversary Munich memorial service he was in attendance for and a post on the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack included his logo.

The bus debacle happened at a time where Periscope was all the rage among some infantile United reserve players who were filming questionable live videos at all hours. It soon stopped but now there is TikTok and Greenwood was on that last week.

“You’ve got to move with the times and the technology and the coaching methods and call it management of millennials,” Solskjaer said last month. “I have to manage the young boys differently from what Sir Alex did.”

United cannot stop millennials from signing up for the latest phenomenon on their smart phones and players should always be free to make those choices. They need educating, though, and United have fallen short in appointing a specific player liaison figure to demonstrate the risks and pitfalls of social media activity.

Brandon Williams was pilloried on Instagram after uploading an ostentatious picture of him on a private jet last month and anyone with an account knew Harry Maguire was in Mykonos because his sister was charting the family holiday through numerous Stories. The solution is to switch to a private account or just keep it as private as the holiday was intended and not mix with a Z-lister from Love Island.

The only recent social media recruit United have made was the man behind a BBC parody account on Twitter as their global head of social media.

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