The Barclays FA Women’s Super League still remains on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with no immediate end in sight.
Given the break in football, now seems like a good chance to look back at which of Manchester United’s newly acquired summer signings have made the most impact.
We signed seven new players to strengthen our squad as we gained promotion from the FA Women’s Championship to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, those being Mary Earps, Abbie McManus, Lotta Okvist, Hayley Ladd, Jackie Groenen, Jane Ross and Aurora Mikalsen. Some have had a huge impact in the team whereas others have taken some time to settle in. I take a look at which summer signing has performed best so far this season?
For me, one player has stood out with her consistent performances, that player is Welsh defensive midfielder Hayley Ladd. The ex-Birmingham City star left the SportNation.bet Stadium in the summer during the mass exodus at the club. Ladd has played in 14 of United’s league matches so far this season, averaging a total of 88 minutes per game in her league match minutes total of 1,233. She has been integral in every great performance that we have made this season, offering the much-needed defensive cover against top sides, an attribute that we may not have necessarily needed as much last season. She scored her only goal in United’s 11-1 FA Women’s Continental League Cup thrashing of Leicester City at the Leigh Sports village, a looping shot from distance that added to the visitors’ demise. The 26-year-old offers consistently great performances, which no doubt puts her as an easy pick for the teamsheet. One thing that is certain is that United look much stronger with her in the side.
England international Mary Earps has become United’s number one keeper since signing last summer. She has started all games for The Red Devils apart from two fixtures in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup. Earps was bought in to bring some much needed experience alongside United’s young keepers with Siobhan Chamberlain absent through pregnancy. The ex-VfL Wolfsburg shot stopper has kept five clean sheets in her 14 league outings. It is set to become her most successful season to date, if she makes just one more appearance, she will have clocked up more minutes this season than any other. Manchester United have been victorious in 75% of all matches that Earps has started. Despite her impressive displays, there have been a few blunders along the way but thankfully, none that have been too costly. The keeper herself would no doubt highlight a few of her errors, with the away game against West Ham United an example as Earps was beaten three times from free-kicks which ultimately cost United the win. Despite this, we must remember that the player is 27, which is still relatively young for a player in a position where many play into their mid to late 30s. We will surely see the very best of Earps during her United career.
From one England international to another, Abbie McManus. More than a few eyebrows were raised when McManus made the switch from the blue half of Manchester in the summer, but with a youth career at United, it was more of a return home for the Prestwich-born defender. McManus has played in 11 of United’s 14 League games, playing the full 90 minutes in each. In comparison, McManus made 13 appearances last season for Manchester City but she only averaged 70 minutes per game and spent much of that time being played out of her preferred position at centre-back. Following her move, she has become an integral part of the United squad with her strong tackles and ability to play the ball out of defence with an eye for a perfect pass. Despite her impressive, passionate displays, her and the collective defensive unit have been prone to some errors but alongside the much younger Millie Turner, she offers experience that will only benefit her defensive partner.
Groenen’s signing last summer was met with excitement as United found their first international addition in the Dutch FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 finalist. There was a lot of expectation placed on the signing as fans waited to see what the 25-year-old would bring and she flourished on her debut in the Manchester derby at The Etihad Stadium, a game in which she almost scored. Groenen has played 16 league games and have averaged 70 minutes per game but despite early flashes of brilliance, it seems that the former FFC Frankfurt midfielder hasn’t quite met the expectations set on her. The midfielder seems to drift in and out of games, as she lacks the consistency needed much like in her time at Chelsea. The phrase ‘need time to settle in’ is often heard in football following transfers and maybe that is just the case in Groenen’s defence. Hopefully, we will see more from her next season.
Ross joined the side from fellow Barclays FA Women’s Super League outfit West Ham United with the promise of goalscoring and an attacking threat that she has been renowned for in her career so far. The Scottish international scored seven goals in 20 games last season, form which United would’ve liked her to rediscover. Sadly, Ross has only currently scored four goals in 18 matches for United but a lot of those outings are mainly as a substitute. It therefore begs the question ‘Does she suit United’s style?’ Ross was once dubbed a ‘super sub’ during Manchester City’s title-winning campaign, she was so often the one to rely on when City needed a win. Unlike City who bombarded the box with crosses late in games, United have more of a tendency to play the ball on the ground with longer build up play. You wonder whether this style is this affecting Jane Ross’ form or as many have asked, ‘Is she now past her best?’
Okvist was another of United’s signings from abroad, joining from Hammarby FC. It is thought that the defender was brought in to aid defensive issues following the departure of club captain Alex Greenwood, with the Swede able to play that same left-back role. She has had a frustrating start to her time at United, being given little opportunities to impress. The Swedish international defender has been given just three appearances for United with an average of 70 minutes in each of those games. This is vastly different to last season during which she featured 24 times for her club. The defender has played well despite the few opportunities, this has led to her recently receiving her first senior call-up for Sweden. Due the lack of appearances for United, it is difficult to rate Okvist highly. I hope we see a lot more of her next season.
Mikalsen’s signing was rather different in comparison to the rest with the player having trained with the club during their time in Norway, before becoming a permanent signing in September. Despite making 13 appearances last season for Norwegian side Kolbotn IL, the keeper has only made one appearance this season in United’s 11-1 FA Women’s Continental League Cup thrashing of Leicester City. Although the scoreline does highlight United dominance, Mikalsen did make a few blunders, one of which denied her the opportunity to keep a clean sheet. Mikalsen’s signing was rather questionable in the first place with United’s five goalkeepers in the squad. We were left with four when Chamberlain went on maternity leave, but even that number seems questionable, though this gave the opportunity to offer younger keepers Fran Bentley and Emily Ramsey the chance to gain valuable experience on loan, with the latter joining Sheffield United. Bentley also may have gone the same way if it wasn’t for an injury in the early stages of the season. With all three keepers potentially returning next season, where will Mikalsen fit in? Is her role in the squad just to offer cover or does Casey Stoney plan to hand her a shot for the number one shirt in the future?
That concludes my round up of Manchester United’s signings from last summer’s transfer window. Our eyes are now beginning to focus on which players we would like to see at the Leigh Sports Village next season.