Manchester United Women have only just begun their 2022/23 FA Women’s Super League campaign, easily handling Reading 4-0 in front of their biggest crowd ever at Leigh Sports Village. There is plenty of optimism around the team after a positive transfer window and a good vibes summer for England in their UEFA Euro 2022 victory at Wembley. However, the sudden departure of midfielder Jackie Groenen is a stark reminder that the squad assembled is not set beyond this season, and the club will have to match the ambition of their players if they have any hope of keeping this project together.
In this piece we’ll look at three players who are crucial to United but have expiring contracts that need to be extended. Like Groenen, these players are key contributors, and the club cannot afford to lose any more key contributors.
For a full contract breakdown of Manchester United Women, you can check out Jamie Spencer’s list here for 90min.
While goalkeeper Mary Earps technically has an option for a further year in her current contract, her contributions and reputation are significantly different now than they were when she signed the contract in 2019. Her heroics for England in their UEFA Euro 2022 triumph got her a spot in the team of the tournament, which on top of her performances for United have raised her profile in the women’s game, and she’ll expect that to be reflected in her next contract, wherever that is.
United should make sure it’s with them.
Finding a goalkeeper is a difficult and often messy task, and while the position itself can often be peripheral as a need to more high profile roles it is vitally important to find quality and continuity at the position. Earps offers that, and her play has made a big difference in keeping United’s goals conceded at or around 1 per game in each of their FA WSL seasons. United were the third best defense in the league last season in that category, and Earps’ 10 clean sheets was fourth best in the league.
At 29 years old, Earps still has some good football left to play in her career. She’s spent her most competitive years with United, becoming England’s no. 1 for their first ever major tournament win in the process. Having to replace her, among probably several other first team and squad players, is not an ideal prospect for the club in a summer when they will already have a lot to address. They can use the +1 extension if needed, but she really is a player they should want to lock down for several more years.
There’s no getting around it, Ona Batlle is one of Manchester United’s most important players.
The Spanish full-back is a menace for opposition from either wing, but has really settled in as the first choice right-back. On opening day against Reading she was nearly unstoppable alongside her compatriot Lucia Garcia, assisting Russo for the fourth goal in the process. Over the last year she’s been one of the best ball progressors in the FA WSL, and she’s a reliable defender as well who presses often and successfully.
Her rise has seen her not only cement her role in United’s team, but also saw her honored in the 2021/22 PFA WSL Team of the Year, the first United player to do so. She’s also the starting right back in a star studded Spain national team, further raising her profile in women’s football.
United had to ward off interest in Batlle this summer, particularly interest from Spanish power FC Barcelona, who eventually moved for Lucy Bronze instead. Her contract, which expires next summer, made her a target like Jackie Groenen for a step up to a Champions League level club. Batlle, like the other two players in this piece, is very much on the radar of top teams, and if Manchester United aspire to have a top women’s team she is exactly the kind of player they need to retain.
Batlle’s profile and links to Spain mean that part of keeping her at United could be the team’s ability to challenge for trophies and qualify for the Champions League. This might make the process more complicated, as well as extend it through the end of the season, but they likely wouldn’t be in a position to push for Europe without Batlle in the first place.
Manchester United Women’s 2021/22 top scorer and Player of the Season. UEFA Euro 2022 winner with England and 3rd place in the tournament golden boot race.
Alessia Russo is ascending as a star in the women’s game.
Her attacking partnership with Ella Toone was a major boost for United as they pushed to qualify for the Champions League last season, and progressed to the League Cup semi-final courtesy of a late winner from Russo against Arsenal.
She’s already off the mark this season, opening her account with the fourth goal against Reading on Saturday courtesy of the player just above her in this article.
Russo’s powerful presence up top doesn’t just provide goals, it creates space and opportunities for her teammates and gives direction to the team’s attack. Toone and Leah Galton benefitted from that space last season, and new signing Garcia benefitted from it at the weekend. She’s made the team stronger through her play, and at just 23 years old she’s got plenty more football ahead of her.
There is no further option to extend, Russo’s contract expires summer 2023. She scores, she creates, and she is only getting started.
Pay her what she wants.