How Man Utd women became a top four side in just TWO years with England legend Casey Stoney at the helm

MANCHESTER UNITED have come a long way since dreaming of Women’s Super League stardom when the club was built from scratch just TWO years ago.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a meteoric rise – becoming the fourth best side in England in just their first top-flight season and attracting some of the biggest names in the game.

Former England and Arsenal legend Casey Stoney, 38, has been at the helm of the club since it was reformed in 2018 after a 13-year hiatus.

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She had just four weeks before preseason to build a whole team, recruit her backroom staff and attract 21 players.

But it didn’t take her long to capture the imagination of the fans and her squad when the club stormed to the Championship title in the 2018/19 season, with 18 wins in 20 games.

United ace Lucy Staniforth, who played for Birmingham at the time, saw her ex-teammate and pal win the hearts and minds of Manchester in just weeks.

The midfielder, 28, forged a reunion with Stoney after arriving at United this summer on a two-year deal.

She said: “I thought United starting a women’s side was really intriguing because I’d had a few conversations with Casey at the time they started.

“It definitely caught my attention and I thought wow what an exciting moment for women’s football – Manchester United being a part of it.

“I think what also caught my attention last year was how well they performed.


“I don’t think anyone expected them to finish as high as they did in the table when they first joined the league – it being there first season who would think that?

“From the outside looking in you think yeah it’s a big club in England and the world but once you’re a part of it you realise how big it is.

“So when they first got a team I thought wow this is going to be great but I didn’t realise how big it would be in years to come.”


Lionesses and Man City ace Alex Greenwood was among the exciting crop of youngsters recruited when the women’s team was formed.

The defender was even willing to drop down a league to join the club, hailing Stoney as the main reason for her decision, just like Staniforth.

The midfielder added: “Casey is someone that I hold in real high respect, I love her passion I love the way she carries herself, everything she wants from her team she does herself.

“I know her from playing with her beforehand so I guess that’s made it a bit easier to come in and work.

“I thought she was a wonderful leader and I knew that she would probably step into that position when the time came.

“With Casey what you see is what you get. The way she played is the way that she leads and manages.

“She’s a great leader and a really strong person to be in charge of such a big football club.”

The United boss was capped more than 100 times for the England women's national football team since making her debut in 2000.


The club's transfer business had been fairly-modest amid their maiden WSL campaign, while Chelsea were snapping up the likes of last year’s record-signing Sam Kerr.

But this summer Stoney’s side fired a huge warning shot to their rivals after landing USA back-to-back World Cup winners Christen Press and Tobin Heath.

Heath said at the time of signing: “Any footballer’s dream would be to play for Manchester United.”

The duo also have a huge impact off the pitch – with their shirts outselling EVERY player in the men’s squad in the first three days of their release.

The shirts even outstripped the likes of Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.

Boss Stoney said: “I think it says a lot about the women's game, this football club and those players in terms of what they've achieved in the game,

“And the fan base they've got across the US and how well known they are.

“It’s massively positive because not only does it mean that people are putting female players’ names on the back of their shirts, it means that there's revenue coming back in and that helps us as a club.”

United have been in scintillating form this term, they are unbeaten in the league and drew with top dogs Chelsea on the opening weekend.

While the men’s side were recently mauled by Spurs in a humiliating 6-1 loss at Old Trafford.

But Stoney’s side have a chance to salvage the club’s pride and turn the tables on Tottenham this Saturday.

World cup superstar Alex Morgan could make her long-awaited Spurs debut having recently signed for the North Londoners on a short-term deal.

She is another American icon who is arguably bigger than the club, given her 9.2MILLION Instagram followers –  more than Spurs’ official account and just shy of Harry Kane’s 9.8million.

Stoney continued: “I give credit to Karen and Juan (managers of Spurs) for what they've done at Tottenham, as a club are constantly pushing on every year, as we are.

“In terms of the club itself we are one of the biggest clubs in the world. So everybody knows the brand, everyone knows the name.

“For me, pressure is a privilege. If people aren't talking about you, then you're not doing the right thing.

"It's now down to us to get to those levels consistently every week.

“We've got some learning to do from our League Cup loss to Liverpool because we need to realise that it doesn't matter where we turn up, there's a target on our back.”


Staniforth reckons a lot of players are attracted to United for their die-hard supporters known as the "Barmy Army".

She said: "To be able to play in front of some of the best fans in England who will you on to do well is exactly why you play football."

United were attracting an average crowd of 2,000 in the Championship while most WSL sides were lucky to get just under 1,000.

Before the coronavirus crisis the supporters followed the club up and down the country, carrying a songbook filled with chants tailored to each player.

And they have even managed to get flags printed for new signings Press and Heath already put up in the women's ground – the Leigh Sports Village.


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