Mason Greenwood was greeted with chants calling for him to die from visiting supporters as he returned to the field for the first time in a year and a half but was defended by his own fans – and inside seven minutes had won the corner from which Getafe scored the winner against Osasuna at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez.
Greenwood’s new coach, José Bordalás, admitted he was “pleasantly surprised” after the on-loan Manchester United forward produced an impressive 25-minute debut in the 3-2 win despite not having played since January last year. Bordalás also apologised for a “misunderstanding” in which he mistakenly claimed that Jude Bellingham had encouraged Greenwood to come to Spain.
“Mason is a great player, we have a lot of trust in him and I think it will be very positive for Getafe and for Spanish football,” he said.
Greenwood was charged with attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault in October 2022 after allegations were made against him online. The charges, which he denied, were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service in February. Despite that, United did not return him to the squad, meaning that his last game was a 1-0 win over West Ham over a year earlier, in January 2022. But he showed little sign of inactivity in his first game since joining Getafe on a year’s long loan the final day of the transfer window.
When he was introduced with the score 2-2 in the 77th minute of a game in which there would be almost 13 minutes of added time, a small pocket of Osasuna supporters briefly chanted “Greenwood, muérete!” [Greenwood die].
They were immediately drowned out by whistles from the Getafe fans, who were left excited by a debut in which Greenwood showed flashes of speed and a willingness to run at opponents. Every time he got the ball, there was a sense of anticipation around the ground. Playing off the front to the right, he had already gone at his full-back twice when a shot was charged down, earning Getafe the corner from which Nemanja Maksimovic headed an 85th-minute winner.
The Osasuna coach, Jagoba Arrasate, described those chants as “very bad”.
“We’re pleasantly surprised by him,” Bordalás said. “Today was a difficult game that was very back and forth. He helped us in attack and in defence too. He showed solidarity with his team, and he surprised us [physically]. We are still working with him, as he has gone many months without playing. We will take this calmly. I imagine today will have been special for him and he will have the satisfaction of feeling like a footballer again. What a footballer wants is to compete, to play.”
Bordalás added: “I only talk about the sporting side of things. Today what I take with me is the expectation of the fans, because he is a great player. We are happy [with him]. He has integrated well, taking into account how little time he has been here. It’s true that the language is a handicap but we are helping him a lot. He is taking lessons with a teacher and we are trying to accelerate his Spanish. His behaviour has been very good. He comes with enthusiasm and the desire to improve.”
Those chants from the Osasuna fans, while very brief, may be an indicator of the kind of reception Greenwood could receive in some grounds. But, asked if was prepared for the charges Greenwood faced to follow him around this season and to deal with similar moments, the Getafe manager said: “What happened and what people say is something we’re not part of. As I said after the Real Madrid game, we can only talk about sporting issues and we’re happy there. We think this [loan spell] is good for him, good for Getafe and good for football.”
Bordalás also took the opportunity to withdraw comments in an interview in which he suggested Bellingham had played a part in Greenwood coming to La Liga. “I said that Mason had come to Getafe because he had spoken to Jude Bellingham. I have had that clarified. It has been confirmed to me that it was not like that, that was nothing to do with it,” the Getafe manager said, unprompted, after the game. “I want to say sorry. I have communicated that [apology] internally too. Mason came here another way: because of our interest, because he was offered to us and we were very interested.”