With the FA Women’s Super League season on hold, we have taken a look back at Manchester United’s fixtures during their first season in the top flight.
It has been an interesting first campaign in the top flight for Casey Stoney’s side with many highs and lows along the way. I have summarised my top five Manchester United fixtures this season, these are not necessarily the five best results, they are simply the five fixtures which have brought me the most pleasure as a United supporter.
3 November 2019: Everton 0 Manchester United 3 (FA Women’s Continental League Cup)
My fifth most memorable match this season came at Everton, who we dominated on a cold day in November at Haig Avenue in Southport.
We went into the game with big expectations and it wasn’t long before our first goal arrived courtesy of youngster Lauren James. Winger Kirsty Hanson managed to dispossess the opposition before smartly playing a through ball to James who swatted away any defensive attempts to slot the ball past the helpless goalkeeper. The crowd erupted with her chant, as fists were thrown in the air in triumph.
It took until the latter end of the second half for us to find the back of the net again, this time from the penalty spot. Once again, James was involved in the proceedings as she was fouled inside the area. Captain and penalty master Katie Zelem stepped up and slammed the ball into the back of the net. The girls celebrated with such passion as they knew how important a win would be in securing a place in the next round.
We expected that to be the end of match as we joked about getting another as Everton seemed to be falling apart. Those jokes included reference to a defender scoring. It seems as if Amy Turner had overheard us, as she raced up the line, beating her defender. We all expected a cross to the back post but Turner had other ideas. She caught the keeper off-guard as she fired in at the near post. What followed was pure passion, the players celebrating together with big hugs as Mary Earps, who was closest to us, chose to celebrate with fans. It was a game to remember, especially for Turner as she scored her only goal so far this season.
17 November 2019: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0 (FA Women’s Super League)
You may think its strange of me to choose a match which ended in defeat for United. Pre-match, us United supporters made an appearance in a video clip which will feature in a future Chelsea documentary.
Inside the ground, half of the terrace behind the goal was packed out with United fans as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder singing loudly. Pre-match exchanges were made with Chelsea keeper Carly Telford as jokes were made as she warmed up, she played along gamely with the crowd.
We controlled the proceedings for large periods of the game with chances dealt out to both sides in a packed out Kingsmeadow. The team fought right to the end and were only beaten by a questionable decision by the referee. Forward Fran Kirby was judged to have been brought down by defender Abbie McManus and the referee pointed to the spot. Maren Mjelde made no mistakes from 12 yards, slotting the ball beyond Earps. We were left utterly deflated by that moment but still sang on in support of the team. The players never stopped fighting and with a large period of added time at the end, we thought we would claw it back but on a bitterly cold day at Kingsmeadow, it just wasn’t to be.
Following the match, we joked with Kirby about her being Tom Daley’s new diving partner, she laughed along. Even despite our disappointment, the Manchester United Barmy Army remained in high spirits as our trip home was spent singing and creating new chants.
7 September 2019: Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0 (FA Women’s Super League)
Entering the top three, is our match against Manchester City, the opening of the FA Women’s Super League fixture of the season and the first Manchester derby. The game was played out at the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City men’s side. The game was promoted weeks before and was set to be an amazing event.
Regular fans sat alongside many brand new fans to the game who had never seen a women’s game before and we hoped the girls would impress. Despite the attempts at segregation, a packed-out lower tier was filled with a sea of red and sky blue shirts. This game for me, marked what our football could one day become, we could fill out big stadiums like in the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). For me, a follower of the women’s game for many years, it brought pure happiness. The first game which I attended had several hundred fans but there I was stood in a crowd of 31,213. That day was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in English women’s football. It proved to every critic out there that women’s football really is something not to be ignored.
The match itself was disappointing for us. We went down to a lovely Caroline Weir goal which Mary Earps could do very little about. The match gave us the opportunity to see several of our summer signings in action including Earps, Hayley Ladd, Abbie McManus, Lotta Okvist, Jackie Groenen and Jane Ross.
We had many chances and were unfortunate to not take the lead before half-time through either Groenen or Ross. Then came the blow of conceding but we didn’t give up and pushed to equalise as a couple of our shots produced fine saves from City keeper Ellie Roebuck. We failed to get back into the game but what followed brightened all of our moods. Players took time to take pictures with fans and children while outside, a dedicated area was cordoned off for players heading back to the coach to meet fans. Every player took time to speak, sign autographs and pose for pictures, they were a real credit to the club.
28 September 2019: Manchester United 2 Liverpool 0 (FA Women’s Super League)
The stage was set for our first meeting with Liverpool in the FA Women’s Super League. We had previously faced the Merseysiders in our first-ever match a year earlier in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup at Prenton Park when Lizzie Arnot scored our first goal as the newly reformed Manchester United in a 1-0 victory.
We hoped for a similar result and we controlled the game from start to finish. Lauren James hit the crossbar and in a second instance following failure to clear the ball by Liverpool, Leah Galton and Ella Toone successively hit the post. Kirsty Hanson then failed to hit the target after we were given a third chance by a deflection.
It looked to be one of those days where luck wasn’t on our side until James pushed past the defender with the ball before switching feet and rifling home from close range. We then doubled our lead through a Katie Zelem penalty after Leah Galton was brought down in the area. She masterfully stepped up and as always, scored from the spot. In what seemed like a difficult match, we were overjoyed to come out of the game with our first-ever FA Women’s Super League victory and three points.
20 October 2019: Manchester United 2 Manchester City 0 (FA Women’s Continental League Cup)
My favourite match and no doubt many other fans’ favourite, is our match against Manchester City at the Leigh Sports Village in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup. Following our first-ever defeat to Manchester City several weeks prior, we were really hoping to push them this time as we lined-up better prepared.
Casey Stoney set-up the team to perfection as anticipation built in the stadium with songs from both sides of Manchester along with a playful bit of banter along the way. It wasn’t long before we took the lead. Leah Galton’s shot was deflected to Hayley Ladd who was fouled on the edge of the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Katie Zelem stepped up to convert with a curled effort past Ellie Roebuck. The home fans roared with excitement as arms were thrown around in celebration.
Caroline Weir and Lauren Hemp came closest to scoring for the visitors but United’s lead was doubled when Jess Sigsworth poked in from a few yards out following a cross from Kirsty Hanson. City were later reduced to 10-players as Keira Walsh was sent off with a straight red for a poor challenge on Hanson.
We managed to record victory as our girls played out the match as true professionals with excellent game management. The game will go down in history as our first-ever win against our rivals Manchester City (since the club women’s side reformed), it will always be remembered as one of our most famous victories.