Manchester United Women manager Manager Casey Stoney watches from the touchline Manchester United Women v Lewes Women, Women's Championship football match, Leigh Sports Village, Leigh, UK - 11 May 2019 Photo: Jon Super for The FA

‘It’s very much in Arsenal’s favour’ – Manchester United boss Stoney on European hopes

Manchester United kept their chances of UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification alive with a 4-1 victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon.

The victory saw United temporarily leapfrog Arsenal into third place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table but they have since returned to fourth following The Gunners’ 2-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion.

Speaking in the post-match press conference in which FAWSL Full-Time were present, Stoney said “I thought we were good. The difference for us was that we were ruthless in the final third and we took our chances. Probably my only frustration is we probably could’ve took more.

“We conceded a goal that we’ll be disappointed with but I thought we were dominant. I thought it was one of our best performances.”

United remain in the hunt for European football next season, however, Stoney believes it’s beyond her team at this late stage of the season.

“I think it’s Arsenal’s to take if I’m honest,” she said. “We didn’t do ourselves any favours losing against Brighton and putting it Arsenal’s hands.

“It’s not in our hands any more and with the run-in of games that we’ve got, I think it’s very much in Arsenal’s favour. All we can do is try and win the games we’ve got left and keep putting the pressure on.

“We are getting closer but it’s disappointing that it’s not in our hands. I can’t be anymore proud, and I can’t fault my team’s effort this season.”

Last season, United were 13 points off Arsenal with eight games left to be played before the season was halted so they have significantly closed the gap this time around. Given United’s progress, there’s no reason why they won’t close the gap with the top three next year and be challenging for European qualification and even the title. One player who has contributed to their improved performances this season has been United States international Christen Press. The forward is renowned for her pace and ability to go past players, however, today we saw a new dimension to her game as her hold up play with her back to goal caused a lot of problems for Spurs. Stoney was full of praise for Press following her Player of the Match display.

“I think it’s been her best performance for us this season,” Stoney said. “I thought her all-round performance was really good. Her back to goal play, her timing to drop in, when she got turned she fed the other forwards well, she combined well. Obviously, she gets a goal as well so I thought it was the complete number nine performance we’ve been looking for.”

Another player who United fans will have been happy to see was Leah Galton as she made her long-anticipated return from injury. The winger came on with half an hour to go in the second half and Stoney was delighted to have her back in the squad.

“She’s a fantastic left winger isn’t she and earlier on in the season, she was a fantastic left-back when we had injuries,” Stoney said. “It’s great to have her in the team, she gives us a different dynamic.

“I have to say I thought Jess (Sigsworth) and Kirsty (Hanson) were brilliant today, then Leah comes on and gives us new energy.”

Galton has been a massive miss for United in the final third of the season and who knows what might have happened if she and other important players had stayed fit. Regardless, Stoney had stated that the target was to challenge for the UEFA Women’s Champions League spots this season and even if they fall short in the last two games, they’ve certainly achieved that goal.

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