The urge might be to look away. The blood, the bruises, the stained, scared eyes.

Here is the real horror, and rather than confronting it, the urge will be to retreat to incongruous concerns about written-off assets or terminated careers, as if Mason Greenwood and his employers were victims too.

But football cannot look away. He cannot hide behind police processes, important as they are.

Mason Greenwood was arrested after allegations of a woman emerged online

He can’t think beyond the woman and what prompted her to post the brutal Instagram footage and equally harrowing audio.

So here is a defining moment for the game, how he handles the allegations and how he sees Greenwood.

In 2003, when Rio Ferdinand failed a drugs test and was dropped from the England squad pending a hearing, FA chief executive Mark Palios had a tense conversation with a senior England official. Manchester United.

“We are talking about £30m assets for this club,” he was told. “With respect,” replied a weary Palios, “we are talking about a little more than that.”

The world is now watching to see how United view Greenwood following his arrest on suspicion of rape and assault.

Their first statement was a placeholder. “We are aware of the images and allegations circulating on social media,” United said. “We will make no further comment until the facts are established. Manchester United do not tolerate any form of violence.

Police arrived at the home of the Man United striker who is suspected of assault and rape on Sunday

Police arrived at the home of the Man United striker who is suspected of assault and rape on Sunday

Good to know. Yet sport creates heroes and is ready to find excuses for them. Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson are still boxing legends, but both have histories of violence against women.

In football, players are not just employees, they are expensive human resources. Greenwood’s value to Manchester United is measured in the tens of millions.

The club’s next decision was crucial. Late yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Greenwood would be suspended until further notice. No games and no training sessions.

It was a welcome acknowledgment of the seriousness of the allegation. His teammates, including David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo, started unfollowing him on social media. It has not always been so. In the past, clubs continued to use suspect players until it became impossible, or entirely objectionable, to do so.

Benjamin Mendy will be tried this year for seven counts of rape and one of sexual assault, involving five women. Yet Manchester City continued to select him until he became ineligible to do so and could suffer significant reputational damage when the trial unfolds.

The sport has a double standard for its biggest stars, with the likes of Mike Tyson still revered

The sport has a double standard for its biggest stars, with the likes of Mike Tyson still revered

Yet that judgment will not come from within the game. Every football club will recognize City’s strategy.

Brighton continue to play Yves Bissouma, who remains under investigation on suspicion of sexual assault. Indeed, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Newcastle have all been linked to him this transfer window.

There is no doubt that these clubs, like Manchester United, do not tolerate any form of violence. Many have also invested heavily in women’s football, such as Manchester City.

However, no public relations campaign or slogan can cover up a perceived casual attitude towards violence against women. This must be a turning point for the game. This is his Ray Rice moment.

In 2014, Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens NFL franchise, was arrested after punching his fiancée Janay Palmer in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Footage later emerged of the incident showing Rice punching with such force that Palmer bounced off a handrail, unconscious. He then literally dragged her out of the elevator, still insane.

Rice’s initial suspension by the NFL lasted only two games. The Ravens also banned him indefinitely. A huge outcry followed what was seen as a mild condemnation by the governing body, forcing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to propose new rules governing domestic violence.

The 20-year-old striker is tipped for the top but football must decide where their priorities lie

The 20-year-old striker is tipped for the top but football must decide where their priorities lie

Those rules now deploy a six-game unpaid suspension for a first offense and a minimum of one year for a second. It almost suggests that the penalty for the first offense is not really a deterrent.

Part of the problem for the NFL was that no part of their code of conduct policy specified the area of ​​domestic violence. When Rice’s beating became public knowledge, the governing body was forced to improvise. Will Football Association or Premier League regulations fare better?

There’s a catch-all charge of bringing the game into disrepute, and public opprobrium can do the rest.

Rice never played in the NFL again, and no franchise picked him as a free agent. But there will have been people in authority scouring the rulebooks for advice when the social media posts come out and they will have found very little to prepare them for it.

Should this surprise? Football is all about T-shirts, banners and social media campaigns, but women in society at large have rarely been well served.

Everyone in the game has heard stories of excess, of girls being transported, flown to parties, of properties that exist to protect the privacy of players, their friends, and all the sexual conquests they collect along the way.

Greenwood's teammates, like Cristiano Ronaldo, quickly distanced themselves online

Greenwood’s teammates, like Cristiano Ronaldo, quickly distanced themselves online

The boys will be boys, the girls will be girls, and as long as everything is consensual, where is the crime? Yet, in Greenwood’s alleged threats and his accuser’s bruising, there is a sense of a distorted and unequal culture that can only end in evil.

It’s not new. In 2012, two days after Ched Evans was convicted of rape and sentenced to five years in prison, his name was celebrated at the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year dinner.

Evans had been included in the Ligue 1 squad for that season, which was read, 1-11, to continued applause. No one saw fit to remove his name, as “the pamphlets had been printed” and it would have looked odd.

Evans is no longer a rapist as in 2016 his conviction was overturned on appeal and a new trial was ordered, in which he was acquitted. Yet those at the Grosvenor House Hotel four years prior were not cheering thinking a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

Evans, then incarcerated, was treated as a hero because the PFA – a union, for heaven’s sake – decided that 35 goals for Sheffield United outweighed a rape conviction.

By the way, the PFA has been admitting women for 22 years. They undoubtedly have many procedures covering non-payment of subs.

It’s hard to imagine Manchester United weren’t aware of the issues around Greenwood. Certainly, there are mysteries about his career path that may now become easier to understand.

Ched Evans was acquitted of rape but football's response to his initial conviction was flippant

Ched Evans was acquitted of rape but football’s response to his initial conviction was flippant

Greenwood's case lays bare all the sport's archaic shortcomings on these issues

Greenwood’s case lays bare all the sport’s archaic shortcomings on these issues

Gareth Southgate has avoided picking him for England since a disciplinary incident in Iceland in September 2020, which also involved Phil Foden.

The couple broke coronavirus lockdown rules by inviting two girls to their hotel room, while Foden was quickly rehabilitated, Greenwood was never selected again.

Sometimes it was at the request of his club. He’s clearly one of the brightest young players in the country, so something was wrong. Everyone knew it.

Similarly, last year, rumors abounded on social media that Greenwood had missed a game due to an allegation of domestic violence. Again, this quickly disappeared from the public domain.

With the police now investigating and Greenwood being arrested, it looks like we will soon find out what United knew about their player’s behavior and what they did to address it.

Now no one is looking away.