“He does what he wants, he does what he wants, Mason Greenwood, he does what he wants.”

Let’s not hide from the obvious reality ahead, if Manchester United allow their disgraced attacker to return to their team then the above will become a thing for some.

In the ground when that chant and similar happens there will be pushback. On social media it will be grasped by those who have spent months making defending him part of their personality.

When I and others of a similar age started following football, there was a requirement to lad-it-up a bit to feel at home. Going to matches even in the 90s wasn’t a sterile experience, and that was fine.

There was no attitude of wanting to arrive and cleanse everything. You adapt to your environment and laugh at jokes you’d otherwise find a little awkward to say the least.

But it was never toxic. As I would adapt my behaviour to fit in with the lads, so would they to make sure things weren’t too far over the line.

Now, with the mass arrival of social media and the anonymity that brings, there’s no need to adapt for many. They can take the worst of their views and purposely exaggerate them to create an impact the vast majority of people would avoid in person.

Social media, perhaps unfortunately, doesn’t exist in a void. What is said there impacts what happens in person and influences young people especially. What would be left unsaid at one time, or at least tempered, is now a route to attention.

The Mason Greenwood situation and the length of time it’s gone on has provided endless material. These things will start on social media and when we see middle aged fathers, even grandfathers, proudly parading their little girls in their profile picture and then going on to defend the Manchester United player with increasingly wild arguments, it is not difficult to imagine the impact on younger generations and their respect of women.

Many of these men would be the first to tell anyone and everyone that if someone harmed even the slightest hair on their little darling they’d gladly ‘do time’.

But then there’s your women, and those other ones.

Should the club welcome him back those people will feel their stances have been somewhat vindicated by Manchester United Football Club. Sure, they could release press statements, talk about rehabilitation and blag about trying to turn the situation into something good, but the message will be clear.

There is no easy way out of this, however, they’ve sure made it as hard as possible for themselves. The drip-drip of leaks about a possible decision have looked plainly like a business trying to create the easiest ground for them to alleviate themselves of moral responsibility – and worse – abdicate the decision to someone else.

That brings us to the latest briefing. Manchester United telling their preferred press personalities that they want to consult players from their women’s team, and will have to wait until their World Cup involvement comes to an end.

That message was indeed parroted as they will have wanted, without any serious criticism from those relaying it. And yet, it was obvious to anyone who engaged their brain what would happen.

The Greenwood Legion would target those women and put the pressure on. In a scenario which started with the recorded abuse of a woman, rounding it up with further abuse of women creates a fitting circle.

Manchester United players at the World Cup were sent messages including such things as ‘we are watching you’.

That particular message struck me because of the threatening nature. So I reached out to the person who sent it, who – and this will stun you – didn’t have the cojones to reply.

Targeting women on the internet is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, and Greenwood’s situation has provided fertile ground for people to do so.

There’s a clue in much of this which points towards the motivation for the Greenwood Legion. Many of those who are the most enthusiastic little soldiers had been questioning him before this all happened.

They’ve taken someone they had niggling doubts about and turned him into Messi-in-waiting. Someone who hasn’t played a match since an appearance against West Ham in January 2022 is presented as an absolute necessity for the coming season.

Greenwood is just a vehicle for them, it’s women they’re really concerned with. And, whilst it’s a difficult topic to address, it would be dishonest to ignore that many of those involved come from countries where women simply don’t have the same respect as in the UK.

Tackling misogyny isn’t very fashionable, tackling misogyny when it could bring accusations of racism is even less attractive. It is understandably scary to fight back against this and we all saw similar during the Qatar World Cup.

We were told we have to respect other cultures, even if those cultures are misogynistic and homophobic. Yet, that desire for respect doesn’t go the other way.

One crowbar which is used to open up that argument is that Greenwood hasn’t been found guilty in a court of law.

Less than 1% of rape cases reported in the UK result in a conviction. Unless we want to believe – and some will absolutely want to believe this – there’s thousands of women just making things up, the reality is that it’s near impossible to successfully prosecute sexual abuse cases.

Another argument is that the woman involved is still his partner.

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline reports that survivors return to their abusive partners an average of seven times before they leave for good… those who are still able to do so.

Perhaps the best argument the Greenwood Legion provide is that there wasn’t quite this same energy for other footballers accused of similar. That is fair to a point, but the huge outlier here is what we all saw and heard, imprinted on our memories and a chance for people to realise what actually happens and to form their own, informed, opinion.

We have what we have, we are where we are.

Those on either side of the divide won’t be changing their opinion anytime soon.

So now it’s over to Manchester United.

The delays and attempts at abdication for responsibility need to end. They had serious concerns about Greenwood’s character before this event, and they navigated those concerns because of the talent involved.

Even if judging on a purely football basis, this is a player who hasn’t appeared for 18 months.

Someone who would be – rightly and understandably – hounded by opposition supporters at every possible opportunity.

Someone who would be a huge distraction for the rest of his career with the club, clocking up negative front pages as quickly as he appeared on the back.

Take it off the pitch, but not too far, and Manchester United need to think about what they actually represent to those people who pack out Old Trafford and have done so for generations.

Those people in the crowd who have been battered, sexually abused, controlled by a partner.

Those who know they’d stand little chance of getting a conviction if they even tried.

Those… who are still going through it.

If the club cares one jot about what happens beyond the pitch then the decision is easy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be that simple for Manchester United.

It very much should be.