Marc Skinner’s Manchester United made an excellent start to the WSL campaign following an impressive 4-0 win over Reading.
A delayed start to the season meant that the Reds were facing the Royals to kick-off the WSL campaign, instead of taking on Tottenham last weekend. Boosted by a host of signings but damaged by the late exit of the influential Jackie Groenen, Skinner’s side were the definite favourites for the clash at Leigh Sports Village.
Summer signing Lucia Garcia, who had joined from Athletic Bilbao, started and so did another summer signing in Maya Le Tissier. Euro 2022’s star trio of Mary Earps, Ella Toone and Alessio Russo also started.
Millie Turner started alongside Le Tissier at centre-back, with the full-back pairing from last season - Ona Batlle and Hannah Blundell, also starting. Skipper Katie Zelem was making her 100th appearance for United and received an award just before kick-off.
It didn’t take long for United to storm into the lead and they were helped by Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney, who couldn’t judge Le Tissier’s header off Zelem’s corner. The ball floated in over Moloney, handing United an easy lead.
The Royals struggled to impose themselves as United controlled possession. Quick runs in-behind from Toone, Russo, Garcia and Leah Galton constantly troubled Reading and that played a vital role in the second goal.
Moloney brought down Russo in the box and the resulting spot-kick was converted by Zelem.
Deanne Rose picked up an injury and was taken off for Natasha Dowie, but that didn’t stop United from scoring their third minutes after the substitution. Le Tissier got on the scoresheet from a Zelem set-piece once again, as poor defending from Reading allowed the new signing a free header to find the back of the net.
As Reading struggled to control United’s attacks and Garcia tried desperately to open her account, as an attempt from her off a cross from Galton was prevented from going in by Lily Woodham.
But Garcia was involved in United’s fourth goal, as she set Batlle through and the Spaniard crossed in perfectly for Russo, who headed into the near post to increase United’s lead.
Garcia, who had a pretty decent outing, had a chance to score in the first minute of stoppage time but the angle for her shot was narrowed by Moloney. The Spaniard was through on goal but was denied a goal.
The ex-Athletic Bilbao striker had a sniff at goal in the 51st minute, but she put her shot wide. Her compatriot - Batlle, had picked her out perfectly and had a very good game on the right.
Garcia was taken off by Skinner for debutant Adriana Leon, who brought something completely different to the plate with her pace and agility. But despite not having found the back of the net, she enjoyed a very impressive debut.
Earps was largely untroubled throughout the game, and United sailed through comfortably to the end.