Football Digest: Man Utd with work to do after sluggish start
Up until last week, Erik ten Hag reportedly expected to add Mason Greenwood to his attacking firepower before the stampede of online backlash caused Manchester United to make a dramatic U-turn. Now, United will face Ten Hag’s fury if they don’t hand him another forward before the summer transfer deadline.
On Monday, United announced that Greenwood would continue his career away from Old Trafford after completing a six-month investigation into his future.
Greenwood hadn’t played or trained with the Red Devils since January 2022, when he was arrested after images and a voice recording alleging sexual assault emerged online.
In October of that year, the 21-year-old forward was charged with attempted rape, assault and coercive and controlling behaviour. He has always denied all allegations.
In February of this year, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges against Greenwood after key witnesses withdrew their cooperation. The alleged victim requested the police to drop their investigation in April 2022.
After the CPS’ decision, United started an internal probe into Greenwood’s arrest and the alleged evidence that leaked on social media.
And The Athletic report that chief executive Richard Arnold – tasked with the final call – told club staff of the plan for Greenwood to return at the start of August.
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However, the fierce opposition to the news online and at Old Trafford before the Premier League opener against Wolves made United realise there was no way back for the No 11.
The Athletic claim that several figures on the football side of the club – including manager Ten Hag and football director John Murtough – supported and encouraged Greenwood’s comeback.
But the sharp change of heart may have left Ten Hag frustrated, especially after the toothless nature of United’s performances against Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur.
The Red Devils created six big chances in the opening two games, scoring just once in a fortunate 1-0 win over Wolves and 2-0 defeat to Spurs.
New £72million striker Rasmus Hojlund’s debut is nearing as he continues his road to recovery from a back injury suffered in pre-season with Atalanta.
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But even with the addition of the 20-year-old, Anthony Martial’s fitness unreliability and last season’s over-reliance on Marcus Rashford for goals leaves Ten Hag craving another forward.
With Greenwood no longer in the frame, the Dutchman will expect United to provide him with a second striker.
But there are just eight days of the summer transfer window remaining, and the lack of time could mean United have to revert to their short-term strategy.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Wout Weghorst and Odion Ighalo have all arrived and swiftly departed in recent years, either on loans or short-term deals.
And United may have to search for their next ageing signing to support Hojlund and Rashford for the rest of the season.
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