“I truly believe that Manchester United has the ability to change the face of women’s football forever.”
The first interview with a new manager or coach is typically supposed to be a safe affair, with the odd cliché about a sense of excitement and a desire to get started thrown in for good measure. It’s not supposed to feature proclamations on the level of the above, but then again, this isn’t a normal job. And Casey Stoney, the new head coach of Manchester United’s women’s team is acutely aware of that.
It was in March of this year that United finally announced that it was reforming their women’s team, a full thirteen years after the Glazer family had culled it barely two months into their controversial ownership. Noting that it was “not part of the core business” (essentially shorthand for ‘it doesn’t make enough money ‘), its absence has been a needless embarrassment for the club whilst the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal have seen their sides become key players in the Women’s Super League.
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Simply put, there was never a good reason for the club not to have a women’s side, and its reformation is rectifying a poor decision that has seen promising youngsters be forced to leave the club at age 17 with no senior pathway available to them, and seek another club. It was a mistake to cull the team in the first place, let alone bring it back sooner, and whilst it’s been a long time coming, it’s simultaneously extremely pleasing to see the club finally revive the team, at least.
Because Stoney is absolutely correct with the assessment mentioned at the top of this piece. United, even five years since their last Premier League triumph, are still football’s biggest club, with a global reach that remains unmatched by every other giant in the game. They have the facilities, the money, the infrastructure and the clout to make a real mark on the women’s game. They can bring in top quality talent from all around the world to Manchester, develop local players and not only that, they can provide the team with a gigantic platform on which to perform. The women’s game doesn’t need putting on the map; it has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade, but United’s global audience and pull could expose a huge number of the club’s fans to women’s football, fans that may have only ever had a passing interest in it. And what a wonderful opportunity that is.
The hope going forward is that a good proportion of the club’s fanbase will take an active interest in the side, attend games and eventually, increase interest in the women’s game from a local to global level. One also hopes that Stoney will be given everything she needs to succeed with the team that will be based out of United’s old base at The Cliff, and that the club will do this the right way. Because simply bringing the women’s team back is not enough; it requires United’s full backing, from hiring the right backroom staff to social media coverage, from funds to facilities, and a club with United’s means cannot be found wanting in those regards. The success of the men’s side in the Premier League era and the club’s incomparable ability to make money from everything from petrol to United-branded flip-flops can give the women’s side a real chance to succeed and thrive, which is exactly what the club should be envisaging going forward. But it needs the club and its fans to support it in order for that to happen.
Rarely does the first interview with a new manager come packed with such infectious enthusiasm as this. Stoney seemed genuinely thrilled to be given the role in her chat with MUTV, and clearly has big plans for the team that will start life in the FA Women’s Championship.
“My ultimate aim is to grow this team so that every little girl growing up dreams, when she’s older, that she wants to play for Manchester United, because they’re the most successful team in women’s football.”
That sort of statement is something that every United fan, regardless of gender, can get behind. The club’s women’s team clearly have some work to do to reach those heights, but with a combination of United’s means and an ambitious young coach like Stoney, anything’s possible. Roll on next season, boss.