It doesn’t seem too often that the fates of Manchester United Men’s and Women’s team align with each other. Erik ten Hag’s side took a 6-3 hammering at the hands of Manchester City, but it came a day after Marc Skinner’s side lost to Aston Villa on penalties in the FA Cup. It isn’t just the defeats that came on the same day, as both sides were coming into their respective games following solid runs in the league that had left multiple fans encouraged.
Despite the defeats though, not all of the optimism has emanated - especially when it comes to Skinner’s side, who did manage to pick up a point from their defeat because of the draw in normal time. The performances against Reading and West Ham were promising and considering how much Skinner had rotated for the trip to Villa, the failure to get a win isn’t a massive surprise by any means.
And despite the defeat, several key observations can already be made from how United have performed in the first three games of the season.
New signings will make an impact
Summer signing Maya Le Tissier has already given a fair impression of her abilities and Spanish forward Lucia Garcia has shown what a threat she can be when running in-behind, pressing off the ball and acting as a fox in the box as well.
The likes of Jade Moore, Nikita Parris and Adriana Leon have also made appearances from the bench, with the summer signing from Arsenal already having found the back of the net against Villa.
Aissatou Tounkara played at right centre-back against Villa, allowing Le Tissier to play at left centre-back, suggesting that there is a way forward for both of them to play together instead of Millie Turner stepping in beside the youngster.
All of these are massive positives for United, who had gone into the summer transfer window with the aim of closing down the gap between them and the top three. There are clear signs that the recruits will fit in well.
Ona Batlle’s performances haven’t dropped
Throughout the summer transfer window, there was this constant risk of Barcelona potentially poaching Batlle from United’s hands. But at the end of everything, the Spaniard stayed and while that is a positive, the fact that her performances have stayed at a high level is another boon for the Red Devils.
Because of Le Tissier’s deployment on the right centre-back berth, United’s play has generally focused down the right more often and that has played into the hands of Batlle. The right-back has had to combine with compatriot Garcia, whose movement in the final third has helped Batlle use her passing range.
There is a strong likelihood that the trio of Le Tissier, Batlle and Garcia prove to be very important for United as the season carries on. They just seem on the same wavelength.
Toone and Russo yet to fully catch fire
Alessia Russo and Ella Toone did make England proud during the Euros and this season is expected to be one where they take their tallies to the next level. So far though, they haven’t really caught fire.
While Russo has one goal, Toone is yet to score or assist in the league. In fact, United have scored only once through the frontline this season, with Le Tissier, Katie Zelem and Batlle scoring a total of five goals amongst themselves. It isn’t as if chances have come the ways of Russo or Toone, the ball just hasn’t found the back of the net so far.
Russo has picked up an injury ahead of international duty, while Toone is expected to feature in games against the United States and Czech Republic.
Late goals still a problem?
Conceding late goals multiple times last season was one of United’s key downfalls. If not, they would have qualified for the Champions League but constant carelessness at the back led to the Reds slipping up late against the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and West Ham cost them vital points.
And it was a goal from Rachel Daly that held United back in the FA Cup recently against Villa. Even though the performances against West Ham and Reading were close to spotless defensively, the goal against Villa would have brought back bad memories from the previous season for Skinner.
After all, the United boss can’t afford to see his side concede goals late in games in what could be a make or break campaign for him.