They worry about outside influences at Manchester United. About the effects of social media on their young players who grow up with phones in their hand, reading online praise about their talents from the age of eight, known as the best player in the school, area, city, region. It’s all positive. The fortunate few do the hard yards at a club and, against all odds, make the first team. Being at a huge club means they are targets for scrutiny and public exposure, to feed a voracious public appetite for dirt. Almost overnight, they have to change the way they live. A trip to buy some jeans in a shopping centre becomes two hours of selfies. That’s the least of their worries. And then the backlash. A few bad games or missed chances can see pernicious, anonymous online abuse of the type they’ve not experienced before. It stings. Even if they develop a thick skin, it gets to their families. Many want to be mates with players and they don’t know who to trust. Girls who wouldn’t look twice at them suddenly pursue them with lustful eyes now they’re in the public spotlight. The former United goalkeeper Gary Bailey recalled it as: “I remember going into town, a gangly 18-year-old with a few spots on my face. I went to a disco and not one person spoke to me all night. Girls didn’t believe me when I told them that I was a goalkeeper at Manchester United.” And that’s a man who later married a former Miss Universe. Then Bailey made the first team. Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek a solid signing but first team requires further bolstering “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’m the man!’ There was a totally different response. Suddenly I was pulling the best girls around. I really had to keep my feet on the ground and bear in mind that being famous was a huge attraction to women.” Bailey made mistakes but he learned from them. Young adults make mistakes and social media can be unforgiving. Brandon Williams posed on a private jet recently. Hardly the crime of the century – but coming at a time when the people who pay his wages were annoyed after their season ended in disappointment it left him exposed to rabid criticism. The possible consequences were pointed out to United’s hugely talented teen full-back and it was deleted. Hopefully he’ll be wiser about what he posts in future. His contemporary and teammate Mason Greenwood has made greater, but arguably still minor mistakes. Some became public: the tabloids are still printing revelations from one of the two Icelandic girls invited into a room he shared with Manchester City’s Phil Foden when England played in Iceland, breaking quarantine rules. The heady mixture of young football celebrities, attractive girls, the England national team and Covid-19 made front page news and the hounds were on the scent. Greenwood was then “exposed” for using bottles of nitrous oxide – or “hippy crack” in tabloid parlance, because “crack” sounds far more dangerous that than “laughing gas”, but he knows he shouldn’t have done it. Nitrous oxide is legal, but still inadvisable. Greenwood will make more errors. He’s a young man finding his way in the world where he’s being constantly judged by people who don’t have a clue what his life is like. Former players did far worse. They drank far too much, they had fights and got into scrapes with undesirables, but they weren’t being filmed at every turn. There wasn’t a camera whenever they left the cocoon of home or the training ground. And their “mates” weren’t queuing up to sell pictures to the papers. Mason has just turned 18 and we shouldn’t forget that. He can do anything ... but he has to get the other side of the game which is important in professional football Nicky Butt Greenwood’s precocious talent is as a football player and while he figures the rest out, he’ll need help and support. He needs protecting and good people around him. He has them at United, former players who’ve been there and done that like his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Mike Phelan, Nicky Butt or Michael Carrick. They’re all different personalities from different backgrounds and some messed up more than others. But they can only advise and influence. They try and create the best possible environment for him to play and improve at football. They’ve done an excellent job. Do they worry about Greenwood? Of course, as they do about other players. But they also want players to be happy away from the club, to be the people they want to be whether that means pushing for free meals for kids or just enjoying life. Last season, Nicky Butt, streetwise Mancunian and head of United’s academy, cautioned when he told me: “Mason has just turned 18 and we shouldn’t forget that. He can do anything, he can score and win games which is what a Man United striker has to do, but he has to get the other side of the game which is important in professional football. The sky is the limit for Mason Greenwood as he silences Jadon Sancho chatter “He’s the kind of player who will do nothing for the whole game and then score you two goals. He could be a superstar if he works with the coaches around him to make himself better – or he could be a miss if he doesn’t.” Butt said that before Greenwood has played a single Premier League game, he had massively overachieved to get where he was. He’s the real deal. He scored 17 goals for one of the biggest football clubs in his opening season. He is a success and some good could come from his misdemeanours being exposed, because he might think twice next time. He’ll get the backing he needs from Manchester United fans, but he needs more than that as he finds his way in the world.