Women’s captain and ‘club legend’ Katie Zelem is leaving Manchester United on a free transfer

She came straight back when the club reformed and has been their ever since.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 27th June 2024

The exodus at Manchester United Women continues as team captain Katie Zelem confirms she will be leaving after seeing out her contract.

Zelem has been with Man United for six years and was appointed captain in her second season with the club, helping lead the side to their first trophy since reforming with the Women’s Championship title in 2018/19 and overseeing their first major honour by lifting the FA Cup last month.

The Oldham-born midfielder made 161 appearances and scored 32 goals for the Red Devils and has remained one of the most influential leadership figures throughout various iterations of the squad.

Having started out her career as a youngster wearing the iconic shirt, it was huge for the club and the fans to have her return years later and go on to wear the armband for half a decade.

Zelem becomes the latest player to leave the club on a free transfer after Lionesses no.1 and United keeper Mary Earps is set to move to PSG at the end of the month, alongside Spanish forward Lucía García following their contracts expiring.


Not only will the departures come as a gutting blow for the supporters, with the 28-year-old being one of the most notable talents remaining from the Casey Stoney era, but it also marks another key player outgoing from which the club have failed to recoup any money.

This has been labelled as one of the biggest shortcomings club-wide, with the men’s team also letting big names run down their contracts and leave on a free for many years: women’s star Alessia Russio last season, then most recently the likes of David de Gea, Antony Martial and Raphaël Varane.


As for ‘Zel’, it’s not lost on the fan base or pundits as to how much of a loss the England international who achieved so much in Europe and in red will be not just on the pitch but in the dressing room too.

The Athletic‘s Jessy Parker Humphreys wrote on social media: “Personally think that Katie Zelem is the biggest loss for United this summer. Not just club captain but a player who has embodied what United should be about and is still in my opinion underrated. Not someone easy to replace on a quality level or a leadership one.”

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Bidding farewell to the academy graduate and club servant who joined aged just 8, Manchester United Women said of Zelem leaving: “From our inception to our first major trophy and everything in between. She’s been with us through it all. Today we bid farewell to a legend.


“Everyone at Manchester United would like to place on record their thanks to Katie for her excellent service and wish her the best of luck in the next phase of her career”.

With supporters having called for manager Marc Skinner to be replaced even despite their FA Cup win, fans have once again been left concerned following reports that the women’s team had been forced to move into portable facilities to make room for the men whilst Carrington undergoes a major refurb.

Neither Zelem nor García have issued any kind of statement addressing exactly why they are leaving or why potential contract extensions/new deals couldn’t be reached (though Earps did somewhat suggest that the ball was in the club’s court), but many believe less-than-ideal circumstances like this and prioritising one squad over the other may have factored players leaving.

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Featured Images — James Boyes (via Flickr)/Man United Women/Katie Zelem (via Instagram)