Mason Greenwood makes low-key return to football in first Getafe appearance

Mason Greenwood (left) shoots while playing for Getafe
Mason Greenwood (left) played a 25-minute cameo as he made his Getafe debut

If there could be such a thing as a low-key return to football after 20 months out for Mason Greenwood, this was it.

The heavy rain that fell south of Madrid leading up to kick-off meant that fewer than 100 fans were outside the Getafe's Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Perez when Greenwood and his team-mates drove past them 80 minutes before kick-off.

Wearing a large pair of headphones, Greenwood walked from the coach to a home dressing room which will become increasingly familiar over the course of the season.

With half an hour left before the start of Getafe's 3-2 La Liga win over Osasuna, only four journalists were in the media tribune to watch Greenwood take part in a tame warm-up session with his fellow substitutes.

With the score level at 2-2, Greenwood was told to warm up an hour into the game. Fifteen minutes later, Getafe coach Jose Bordelas signalled for the 21-year-old, who was brought on to the pitch to make his return to football, 20 months after he was charged with a number of serious offences, including attempted rape and assault.

Clearly short on peak fitness, Greenwood still produced a couple of standout moments akin to those which made him a Manchester United regular and brought him an England cap.

A trademark stepover and powerful shot which earned the corner that brought Getafe their 86th-minute winner in an entertaining encounter was the highlight.

"I guess it has been a very special day for him," said Bordelas afterwards. "It will give him great satisfaction to feel like a footballer again because to be a footballer is to play and to compete."

But clearly the Greenwood story, and how he ended up in an environment that is in so many ways a world away from the one he was so accustomed to until January 2022, is far more complex than a simple analysis of a 15-minute substitute appearance on his return.

The reasons for Greenwood's move to Spain was not lost on the small pocket of Osasuna fans in the corner of the stadium, who made audible protests against the forward's presence with obscene chants which have triggered the threat of sanctions and a likely warning for others to avoid a repeat.

Bordelas unwittingly highlighted the situation Getafe have brought on themselves with his very first answer in the post-match press conference.

In the build-up to the game, the coach said in an interview that Greenwood had ended up at Getafe after England and Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham had spoken highly of the club to the United man.

This information, Bordelas acknowledged, was completely incorrect. "I'm sorry. I wanted to clear this up," he said.

Questioned about the chant of his club's fans towards Greenwood, the Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrasate responded by asking why this moment was being highlighted among many more positive interventions from the visiting support.

Mason Greenwood in action for Getafe
Mason Greenwood last played a professional football match at the beginning of 2022

Perhaps there would have been more opposition to Greenwood outside the ground before kick-off had the weather been better.

In the immediate aftermath of his signing, Spanish domestic abuse charity the Ana Bella Foundation asked for Getafe to revoke the transfer.

"The club is setting a terrible example," a spokesperson is reported to have said. "Getafe executives should never have hired Mason Greenwood and should immediately overturn their decision.

"If you're a public facing organisation like Getafe, there is no excuse to take a neutral stance on violence against women - you must take moral responsibility."

The Ana Bella Foundation did not respond to repeated requests from BBC Sport for further comment on Greenwood's presence in Spain.

Fans I spoke to before the game had a different view, especially one to whom Greenwood gave his shirt during his unveiling earlier this month.

"The shirt is at my house at the moment. I want to get him to sign it and then I will put it in a frame," said 17-year-old Pedro Bonito.

As for the controversy around Greenwood, he said: "For me, no [it doesn't matter]. He is innocent, that has been decided by a lawyer."

In reality, Greenwood has been found neither innocent nor guilty, given the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew charges earlier this year before any trial was taken to court.

As United chief executive Richard Arnold stated last month: "The alleged victim requested the police drop their investigation in April 2022."

Getafe accept the controversy around Greenwood will not go away. The player himself said as much in his own statement last month: "I understand that people will judge me because of what they have seen and heard on social media, and I know people will think the worst."

Getafe hope the noise will die down the more Greenwood plays.

They could hardly be accused of sheltering from their own decision judging by the number of Greenwood posts and "starboy" references they have made on social media since his deadline day signing.

And, while United's stance remains that they do not expect Greenwood to play for them again, he remains under contract with the Old Trafford outfit paying the vast majority of his wages during his time in Spain.

A return to top form would test the about-turn they made last month, following significant public criticism, on an initial plan for him to remain with the club.

As it is, Greenwood is keeping a low profile.

He left the stadium without speaking to the press and there are no plans for Getafe to make him available to the media, leaving Bordelas to field questions about him.

"I spoke about it in my first press conference after [we signed him]," he said. "Now we [will] only talk about football.

"We are happy with Mason's behaviour. I think it's a good thing for him, for Getafe and for football."