England: Alex Greenwood
Manchester United captain Alex Greenwood was the leader of the Red Devils’ dominant Championship campaign that saw them earn promotion to the Women’s Super League. She doesn’t have quite the same role for the Three Lions, which is understandable with legendary Steph Houghton as captain, but she brings the same energy and forward thinking that has been on display at United.
Greenwood’s enterprising style of play at full back gives England an extra edge down the wing, and her contributions were on display for their opening match against Scotland. Greenwood intercepted an attempted clearance, and lobbed the ball forward for Ellen White to score the eventual winner just before half-time. England would go on to win the game 2-1.
England: Abbie McManus
Abbie McManus, an accomplished veteran of championship winning Manchester City and the England national team, may have only just joined the Red Devils a couple weeks ago, but she’s been waiting for the chance for some time. She grew up supporting United, and finally has the chance to play for her actual favorite club in Manchester.
She’s featured in the England side for a couple years now as a regular, and was a member of the 2019 She Believes Cup winning side. She’s been mostly a backup behind veteran centre backs Steph Houghton and Millie Bright, the latter of whom was replaced by McManus against Scotland. The severity of Bright’s injury is unknown right now, but could mean McManus will start in England’s second game.
If that is the case, McManus is more than capable of filling the role. She was a serial trophy winner with the Noisy Neighbors, where she partnered Houton in defense.
Scotland: Lizzie Arnot
Lizzie Arnot made the move to Manchester United a year ago, before their first season in English football since the team was revived, and was a key player in Casey Stoney’s Championship winning side. She’s been playing for Scotland since 2015, and can play as either a midfielder or a forward.
Scotland needs all the firepower they can get in their first ever World Cup appearance, and Arnot provides just that. She’s been scoring in Scottish football since she was a teenager, winning several cups with Hibernian. She even scored 5 goals against Celtic in the 2018 Scottish Cup Final.
Scotland: Kirsty Smith
Smith is another veteran of Manchester United’s successful 2018/19 campaign, and her services earned her a spot on Scotland’s World Cup roster. Like Greenwood, Smith is a powerful full-back. She possesses the ability to play either right back or left back, and even has some experience coaching from her time at Hibernian.
Smith, 25, is part of an exciting generation of talent for Scotland, who are making their first World Cup appearance. Her arrival in the first group stage match against England wasn’t enough to complete a comeback from 2-0 down, but Scotland were noticeably more adventurous and confident going forward. Nikita Parris, who had her way in the first half, saw less opportunities to create with Smith marking her. Keep an eye out for Smith going forward against Argentina and Japan as the Scots look for a way to scavenge a spot in the knockout rounds.
Netherlands: Jackie Groenen
Jackie Groenen, like McManus, is a new arrival to the Manchester United squad, but she’s been turning heads for quite some time. Groenen was a key member of the 2017 Dutch team that won the European Championship, for which her masterful play earned her a spot in the UEFA Team of the Tournament. She has 46 caps for the Netherlands at just 24 years of age.
Groenen sports the historic no. 14, presumably in honor of Johan Cruyff if her Twitter profile is any indication, and fits the mold of the classic Dutch midfielder. Groenen has expert awareness and control with the ball at her feet, and can pick any team apart with her passing and playmaking. She is a key player in the Dutch team, and will no doubt make waves at United in the 2019/20 season (where the no. 14 shirt is also hers if she wants it).
The Netherlands will rely heavily on her to help control the midfield in a tough Group E with Canada, Cameroon, and New Zealand. On paper the defending European Champions should be able to navigate their way to the knockout stage, but getting through will by no means be a formality.
The Netherlands start their campaign on Tuesday against New Zealand.