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100 games: A look back at Manchester United Women’s story so far

by Zoe Hodges

Manchester United women played their 100th game last weekend when they won emphatically at home against Leicester Foxes in the WSL.

As they beat them 4-0 it also signifies their 50th clean sheet!

It was a milestone for the team, who only formed at the start of the 2018 season and what a whirlwind four years they have had.

It was Casey Stoney who was appointed as the first manager of the team that began life in the Championship.

It fell on her shoulders to pull a team together and she began by looking to previous players who had come through United’s centre of excellence but who had been forced to play elsewhere due to United not having a senior team for them to progress into. Stoney was tasked with reaching out to those players to see if they’d be interested in joining the Red side of Manchester in their inaugural season.

Seven players returned to the club after playing at youth level, one of those being current club captain Katie Zelem, who went on to score twice from two corners in United’s 100th competitive game. She scored from the penalty spot in United’s first league match against Aston Villa where they trounced their rivals 12-0.

Also returning were Millie Turner and Ella Toone, The latter has made 70 appearances for the Reds and has been one of the stand out players this season, the former has been vital in many of those clean sheets!

It was a team built upon the foundations of youth and passion but they also had plenty of ambition too and went on to secure promotion in that first year quite comfortably – their only league defeat was to Durham.

Meanwhile, they reached the quarter-final stage of the Conti Cup and the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Stoney continued to build her team and in their first year in the WSL had a nice mix of youth and experience. The addition of Jackie Groenen was one boost to the team that really made a difference at that level. They exceeded expectations as they finished fourth in the league.

The next big push was for top three – the Champions League places. In their third season with the addition of US World cup winners Tobin Heath and Christen Press along with a host of other international stars such as Ona Batlle, who would go on to be United’s player of the season, it looked like United were going to clinch that third place spot.

They sat top of the table at Christmas but shortly after, injury struck and United went on a downward spiral with their best players sidelined and team morale low.

It was another fourth place finish for the Reds, which was not to be snIffed at so early on in their reformation but they had dreams and expectations that weren’t reflected in the result.

It was time for a change as Stoney resigned and headed for the States, with Heath and Press also departing and in came Marc Skinner.

A slightly turbulent start to this season ensued with United being beaten by Chelsea 6-1 and points being dropped from winning positions.

However, Skinner settled the players down and they began to gel as a team. New signings such as Boe Risa and Blundell shone when they were given a chance. United now find themselves in third place behind Arsenal and Chelsea.

The race for Champions League football is on but with Spurs and City on their heels they will have to pull together and continue to win in emphatic style like they did against the Foxes.

In their past 100 games, they have achieved so much but it is time to see what they can achieve on a European stage. Fingers crossed Reds we’ll have to renew our passports at the end of the season!

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