Written by Emilia Hawkins
Sub-Edited by Will Bussey
In the world of women’s football, Manchester has been blue since City founded their women’s team in 1988. But in 2018, a red shadow started to emerge, as United officially announced they had formed their own women’s team and appointed England legend Casey Stoney as manager. Upon her arrival, Stoney said “Truly, it is an honour to help shape a new era for one of the world’s biggest clubs and I will be working very hard to make sure it is a success.” When the announcement was made it certainly caused a lot of excitement from the football community, and it was almost inevitable the club was to become something great. I’ll be taking a look at the club’s journey from starting in the Championship in 2018, to now finding themselves at the top of the WSL table.
Now, let’s go back to 2001, when a team called Manchester United Supporters Club Ladies formed an official partnership with Manchester United. However, this did not last very long as the club began to struggle following a string of mid-table finishes in the third division of women’s football. In 2005 the team was disbanded as it was seen as unprofitable. A media spokesperson for the club released a statement, claiming that the aim was to focus on a women’s academy rather than a first team, perhaps at the time looking to improve the quality of football for the future.
Fast-forward to May 2018, and Manchester United W.F.C were officially formed and had a successful application to gain entry to the FA Women’s Championship. In their first ever game as a team they beat Liverpool 1-0, this was certainly a taste of what was yet to come as three weeks later they demolished Aston Villa in a 12-0 victory in their opening game of the season. In April 2019 they claimed the league title with 55 points and an astounding +91 goal difference, gaining promotion to the FA WSL.
United’s debut season in the WSL certainly wasn’t a straight-forward one starting with a 1-0 loss to rivals Manchester City. The match had a record league attendance of over 31,000 – bringing more attention to both the league and the clubs. However, the season was forced to end prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Casey Stoney’s side finished 4th in the table on points-per-game, this was certainly an achievement for a side in their first top-flight campaign.Embed from Getty Images
During the summer of this year Manchester United caught the attention of football fans across the world. They have recently made 3 game-changing signings; Lucy Staniforth, Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Staniforth is a popular name amongst fans of the WSL, having played in the topflight for 11 years. The 27 year-old is deemed one of the most technically gifted players in the league and is sure to be a great asset for the Red Devils. The other duo of signings are also very impressive – Tobin Heath and Christen Press are both US Women’s National Team regulars, and they have both made a very positive start in their Manchester United careers. On the day they signed they broke records for the amount of shirts sold, Press and Heath were the most popular names – male or female – printed on United shirts. This is made an even more impressive achievement considering the big names the men’s team hold. Not only have these two made a big impact off the pitch, but they have done so on the pitch – helping to take Manchester United to the top of the table where they currently lead by 1 point.
So, it would be fair to say Manchester United have taken women’s football by storm. Casey Stoney will certainly be doing all she can to ensure the Red Devils secure a place in the Champions League next year for the first time, and perhaps even the league title. But it will be a challenge, to say the least, as this season the WSL is shaping up to be more competitive than ever.