After an impressive first season in Women’s Super League, Manchester United Women will be looking to push on and challenge for a Champions League position in just their third year as a newly reformed team.
Last season, their first season in the WSL and their second season as a newly re-formed club, the Manchester United Women’s team managed to break into the top four, losing just five times in the league and winning half of their games.
There was still a clear gap between themselves and the elusive top three, however, as Casey Stoney’s team finished thirteen points behind Arsenal, with Manchester City and Chelsea ahead of them in second and first, respectively. The London team, who did not lose a game in the league, took the top spot ahead of City after the final league table was decided on a points-per-game basis due to the suspension of the season.
Arsenal, City and Chelsea have dominated the Women’s Super League in recent years, with the teams retaining the top three positions since 2015 and all three having won at least one title in that period.
To have a chance of improving on their fourth place finish, and grabbing one of the two Champions League spots, United will have to improve their results against the top three.
United lost all the games they managed to play against the League’s top three before the season was suspended, although they did beat local rivals Manchester City in the Continental Cup back in October.
The opening fixture of the 2020/21 season, however, saw United rescue a draw against reigning Champions Chelsea, with the game finishing 1-1.
The game also saw an appearance from Pernille Harder, who signed for Chelsea this summer for a reported world record fee for a female player.
While United do not currently find themselves in the position to attract the same calibre of player as Chelsea and other successful teams––Stoney herself says that she and the club are committed to building the team at their own pace––they have made six signings this month in an attempt to push on in their development.
The summer singings include English internationals Lucy Staniforth and Alessia Russo.
The club will also be joined by the experienced and two-time World Cup winners Tobin Heath and Christen Press, who won managed to get their hands on the trophy with the United States back in 2015 and 2019.
Heath will bring the more experience to the Manchester team, having won 168 caps for her country and two National Women’s Soccer League titles with the Portland Thorns. She was also shortlisted for the Women’s Ballon D’or in 2019.
Press, however, has previously played in Europe and managed to reach the Champions League Final with Swedish team Tyresö FF back in 2014.
The two Americans are not the only additions to the WSL from across the Atlantic, as this summer also saw World Cup winners Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle join Manchester City and, what is likely to be the most high profile deal in the history of the WSL, World Cup Winner and US co-captain Alex Morgan sign for Tottenham on loan.
This summer has shown England to be an attractive location for some of the best and most high-profile talent in women’s football, but it remains to be seen if the fledging Manchester United can keep up with those around them and pose a challenge to the veterans of the league who stand ahead of them.
After a convincing 5-2 win against Birmingham in their second game of the season, next up for United is Brighton on the 4th of October.