Manchester United Women
There was quite a bit of business done this Summer to reinforce the squad. Within the WSL, up and comers Grace Clinton and Maya Le Tissier arrived from Everton and Brighton respectively. Veterans of the game were added to the squad as well, with Rachel Williams arriving from Tottenham, Adriana Leon from West Ham United, and Nikita Parris from Arsenal.
Clinton and Le Tissier arrive with the hopes of becoming long term standouts in the United side. At just 19 and 20 years old respectively, the pair show a lot of promise for the future while already being young standouts with WSL experience. Le Tissier adds depth in defense, operating mostly as a right back but with some experience at center back, while Clinton will boost United’s central midfield unit.
With their final (for now) moves of the transfer window, United also signed a pair of La Liga players in Spanish forward/winger Lucia Garcia from Athletic Bilbao and French defender Aïssatou Tounkara from Atletico Madrid.
Further up the pitch, Leon and Parris will be a nice boost to United’s attack. Both can play as wingers or more centrally, and add experience and quality to a position group that needs more support for the club to keep moving up the table.
Parris is certainly the most recognizable name of the transfer arrivals, but she has been past her best the last couple seasons and struggled to get back in the England XI under Sarina Wiegman. She’ll have a lot to prove to feature regularly.
Perhaps most important for United this summer was actually not selling anyone. At least for now they’ve managed to ward off interest from Barcelona and PSG in Ona Batlle and Jackie Groenen respectively, and the trio who contributed heavily to England’s win at Euro 2022, Mary Earps, Alessia Russo, and Ella Toone, have been retained for now as well.
Friendlies and Toulon
United made an appearance in Toulouse for a preseason tournament, defeating PSG 1-0 before suffering a heavy loss to Bayern Munich in the tournament final. It should be noted that a handful of key players either briefly featured or missed the tournament entirely, though several of the new players got some minutes in with other first teamers.
Katie Zelem scored the only goal of the tournament for United in the win over PSG, and was key in United’s attacks against Bayern as well. It was a front three of totally new signings in the latter game, which may have contributed to the disjointed performance, but Bayern’s midfield prowess was an especially difficult task for United to overcome.
It was the only taste of European football that Skinner and co. will get for now, but the ambition to take on some of the best in the game shows where they think the team are at following a campaign that saw them just miss out on Champions League qualification on the final day.
On either side of the Toulouse tournament United played friendlies against newly promoted Liverpool and Everton, both ending 1-0 in favor of United courtesy of goals from Leah Galton and Lucia Garcia respectively. They had to cancl a pair of friendlies scheduled against Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, but still managed to get some work in before the games start to mean something.
FA WSL and predicted XI
The schedule for the league gives United a bit of an easier transition into starting their league campaign before taking on the major powers in England.
United open their campaign against Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in front of hopefully a packed crowd on Saturday, September 10th. Their next matches are against Reading (H), West Ham (A), Brighton (H), Leicester City (A), and Everton (A), before they face champions Chelsea (H) and Arsenal (A) in consecutive league fixtures.
The Blues clinched the title on the final day against United last season, preventing United from securing a place in Europe for this season, so that will surely be on their minds when they meet at Leigh Sports Village in November.
Another takeaway here is that United only have three home fixtures from their first eight in the league. While they should be a cut above most of their opponents, playing away from home could present its own challenges.
Here’s our best guess at what Marc Skinner’s starting XI might look like based on the current squad:
We’ve seen him send out a 4-2-3-1 formation with regularity, utilizing forward thinking full-backs to assist with wing play and the creativity of his central midfielders to provide for the reliable Russo up front. Toone’s versatility and strong partnership with Russo makes her a threat across the front line, but playing a bit centrally off of Russo can assist her in that sort of role.
The wings are the areas that were most heavily addressed this summer, and after having Tobin Heath and Christen Press for a season it was a bit difficult replicating that creativity to such a high standard. The arrival of Garcia, Leon, and Parris, as well as the strong performances of Leah Galton, give Skinner much better choice at the position now than he had in his first season as manager.
In defense Skinner may also be shaking things up with his defensive partnerships. Centre back Tounkara provides competition for both Turner and Thorisdottir, the latter especially struggling for both United and Norway recently. Tounkara is the more seasoned player centrally, but Le Tissier is also an option for the rotation considering her experience across the back four. It’s also still early in her career and therefore she is more likely to continue perfecting her craft in different roles, not to mention the right back role is firmly held by Batlle.
FA WSL- 3rd
FA Cup- Semi-finals
League Cup- Champions
It’s time to win stuff.
Manchester United Women made some strides last year, meaningful ones at a much needed time after Casey Stoney’s departure drew attention to the team’s lack of backing from the club. They made (on the surface) smart moves in the summer to strengthen areas of weakness, provide experience in depth, and bring in young talent with the potential to become long term first teamers. That’s all is nice, but it’s only a platform from which to build on, and last season was something worth building on.
So we’re predicting silverware and a finish in the UEFA Champions League qualification spots.
Last season United came quite close to reaching the League Cup Final, scoring a dramatic late win against Arsenal in the quarterfinal before Chelsea sent them home in the semi-finals. Emma Hayes’ Blues are the team to beat in England, and United have as much motivation as anyone given their troubles with them last season.
This year they finish the job, winning a cup in March and carrying that confidence into the final months of the season, securing enough points from a tough closing schedule to make their debut in Europe’s premier women’s competition in 2023/24.
The Busby Babe and Manchester United Women coverage
In doing work to fully piece together a season preview I found it surprisingly difficult to gather reliable information on Manchester United women in terms of player profiles, history, positions, and data. There is some excellent work out there being done to try and expand coverage of the women’s game, but there is still a noticeable gap in content.
So thank you to the sites, blogs, magazines, and writers who have been doing the work to address the lack of coverage in the last few years since the re-introduction of Manchester United women. We want to try and do similar work on this site, and will try to offer deeper analysis on a more consistent basis to what has been the norm. Our goal is to have match reports as usual, player ratings as often as possible, more tactical breakdowns and observational pieces about the team’s performances, and hopefully even podcast coverage.