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Manchester United Women!

Four years from founding, the Red Devils are on the verge of their first WSL title and Women’s FA Cup

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Compared to the other giants of English football, such as Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool, Manchester United were slow to start a women’s team. Sure, there were connections to a team, but Manchester United didn’t fully dip their toes into the women’s division right away. Indeed, Manchester United Women’s were founded just four years ago, long after the other big clubs in England had created a women’s team.

The club subsequently joined the Women’s Championship for the 2018-19 campaign. The newly formed team competed against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur Women, Leicester City Women, and Aston Villa Women, all of whom are now in the Women’s Super League. There were also matches against London Bees, Lewes Football Club Women, and Durham Women, teams currently outside the women’s domestic top flight.

Under the management of Casey Stone and playing home matches at Leigh Sports Village, well away from Manchester United’s home base of Old Trafford, the women strolled to the Women’s Championship title, collecting 55 points from 20 matches. The Red Devils conceded just seven goals while plundering 98. It was a magnificent season, but it may be topped this campaign by the ladies in red.

A WSL champion in the making

Manchester United have 41 points after 17 WSL matches, which puts them at the top of the standings. With five matches left to play in the WSL season, the Red Devils are trying to hold off three teams in the title race.

Reigning champions Chelsea are second with 40 points and a game in hand. Meanwhile, Arsenal and Manchester City are third and fourth, respectively, each with 38 points. Arsenal also have a game in hand over Manchester United, and the two teams will play on Wednesday, April 19, in a massive women’s football showdown.

The Red Devils’ defence has been fantastic once more this campaign, conceding a mere nine goals to opponents, which leads the WSL. The Red Devils scored 46 goals in 17 fixtures, which is also top of the competition. Despite the brilliance of coach Marc Skinner’s team, the league title could still go to one of Manchester United’s rivals. The Red Devils must be perfect in the final weeks.

Star players putting in star performances

After finishing fourth last season, Manchester United Women signed key players to improve the overall quality of the squad and push for a WSL title. The squad already had a strong goalkeeper in England international Mary Earps, 2022 The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper.

Defender Maya Le Tissier joined from Brighton and has appeared in all 17 league matches. She has helped the club keep 13 clean sheets in all competitions. Nikita Parris may not be the goalscorer she once was for Manchester City or Lyon, but the 29-year-old has still made 17 WSL appearances, scoring twice.

UEFA 2022 Euro heroes Ella Toone and Alessia Russo have also played major parts in United’s stellar campaign, Toone, hailing from nearby Tyldesley, has eight assists to go along with three goals. The eight assists make Toone Manchester United Women’s joint-top assister with Ona Beatlle. Russo has eight goals, which is tied for the team lead with Leah Galton. The Red Devils stars are stepping up, but the rest of the squad is also contributing, making them a difficult side to defeat.

The final hurdle to the season 

A difficult run of fixtures down the stretch will test Manchester United Women. Five matches remain this season in the WSL with Arsenal at home, Aston Villa away, Tottenham Hotspur at home, the Manchester Derby against City at home, and an end-of-the-season trip to Prenton Park to play Liverpool Women.

Three of the five matches are against teams in the WSL’s top five. Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are the only two of the “Big 6” missing from the upper echelons of the WSL. Those teams are fighting against relegation in the final weeks of the women’s top-flight season.

There is also an FA Cup semifinal fixture against Brighton on Saturday, April 15, which the Red Devils must navigate. The semifinal will come just 14 days after Manchester United thrashed the Seagulls 4-0 in the WSL. An FA Cup semifinal win against Brighton would see the Red Devils face either Aston Villa or Chelsea in the cup decider.

In the span of a few days, Manchester United could achieve two never-before-accomplished feats. They could win the WSL title and the FA Cup. Yet, the Red Devils could also end the campaign empty-handed.

A women’s team finding its feet

The Lionesses Women’s European Championship 2022 win sparked a new interest in women’s football across England. New fans were made thanks to the magic created by the Lionesses.

Manchester United see over 5,000 fans per match at Leigh Sports Village this season. Leigh Sports Village is difficult to reach, despite being just 14 miles from Old Trafford. The venue is near Wigan, making it a trek that many fans in Manchester or its outskirts are unwilling to undertake.

There is also just one way in and out of the stadium, making it a mess for fans driving to the game. Forget about public transport, as there are just a few local buses that reach the stadium. Still the women’s team has done well to draw fans to the ground.

Games at Old Trafford saw far more fans turn out. The women’s team attracted 30,196 fans to Old Trafford in December to witness their 5-0 victory over Aston Villa. In March, Manchester United Women returned to Old Trafford to face West Ham, winning 4-0 in front of more than 27,000 supporters.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will kick off in July in Australia and New Zealand, giving women’s football in England another chance to increase fan awareness. The Euro 2022 win did a lot for the women’s game, making the squad overnight heroes following their final win over Germany.

The excitement over the start of the WSL cooled due to the 2022-23 season’s opening weekend being postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The Football Association may have also dropped the ball, failing to get more matches on live television in the United Kingdom – although most games are available to stream online.

Manchester City and Liverpool once dominated the women’s game in the northwest of England. Three of the 12 previous WSL titles (Liverpool two, Man City one) were won by the teams from the northwest. A WSL title for a team in the northwest has been an exception to the rule, however. Arsenal and Chelsea have won the majority of WSL championships, with nine between them. The Blues won each of the last three WSL titles.

Manchester United aren’t just fighting for their first WSL championship just four years after forming. They are battling to win the FA Cup, too. In both competitions, Manchester United are trying to end Chelsea’s dominance. The Red Devils have a difficult end to the campaign, but after four years of football, could bring home a domestic double.

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