What&aposs shocking is talk of last year&aposs disastrous max exodus from their local rivals, City. Nine players left the club after the Euros triumph, many key figures and three retirees. It&aposs also no secret that the City&aposs recruitment plan has been insufficient, failing to change players minds before penning a deal elsewhere. The same issue seems to rear its ugly head, in Red.
Already, 11 players have left Leigh Sports Village on a permanent deal, Ona Batlle, Maria Thorisdottir and Alessia Russo have jumped ship to Barcelona, Brighton & Hove Albion and Arsenal.
Players who were out on loan last season, Tara Bourne, Jade Moore and Emily Ramsey have parted ways with the club after seeing out their contract, as has Aissatou Tounkara.
Kirsty Hanson makes her loan move with Aston Villa permanent after shining bright under Carla Ward and Chloe Williams makes her loan move to Blackburn Rovers permanent, as does Niamh Murphy.
January loan signing Estelle Cascarino moved back to Paris-Saint Germain after a short spell at United with barely any game time – what was the point in that I wonder? The United boss Marc Skinner has also sent Keira Barry, Grace Clinton and Bella Reidford out on loan.
But – and its a very big but – United have managed to scoop up international talents for the 2023/24 season. Welsh centre-back Gemma Evans, Brazilian striker Geyse, English prodigy defender Evie Rabjohn and midfielder Scottish Emma Watson with Japanese attacker, and World Cup 2023 Golden Boot winner Hinata Miyazawa on the way – which has raised some eyebrows.
Is there a statement of intent here in Skinner&aposs bolstered attacking line-up after the loss of Russo and Co?
Albeit she didnt have a goal-fest of a season, the Lioness star had the answer United so desperately needed on several occasions. She scored the last-minute winner over Arsenal at the Emirates in November and netted the only goal of the game to get two wins in two, over the Gunners in April.
But what possibly could hurt more is losing Batlles sensational and seamless transitional play delivering crosses all over the shop. One goal and nine assists for the Spaniard in the WSL last season alone, whilst also holding the fort at the back.
Can Jayde Riviere step up and fill those metaphorical gargantuan Spanish shoes? Well her World Cup performance would say so. She was a stalwart in the Canadian backline, occupying the right with a zest to get higher up the field. Wickedly rapid and a cheeky meg or two to boot.
If the 22-year-old can offer that on the international stage, it&aposs rather thrilling to see what shes capable of domestically, except she arrived in January and fans are yet to see what she has to offer. Nevertheless, Riviere is seemingly the logical option to fill the hole at right-back. Partner her up with the likes of Martha Thomas, Nikita Parris or Lucia Garcia and you have one super-speedy and eager right side.
Now does Geyse slot in as an out-and-out striker, to complement Skinners preferred 4-2-3-1 formation? Or is she the missing piece of the right flank jigsaw?
Wait! Not so fast, Geyse held the right back spot for her country in the draw against Jamaica, after being a forward on two occasions at the World Cup. Can she cover the whole right line, should United need it? And at the Champions League level? Of course – shes been there before and won it.
Somehow Geyse has been coaxed into the realms of United without actually expressing her desire to leave football giants Barcelona – how did that happen? Is she the answer to United&aposs prayers?
Bringing in the Brazilian forward to England offers more than a good right foot and tactical knowledge, at United it&aposs about partnerships. With Ivana Fuso&aposs return to Carrington from the Bundesliga, well… Can you say two Brazilian strikers of quality pedigree are ready to roll? Yikes!
Throwing more fuel onto this attacking flame is Miyazawa. United have laid their claim to the Japanese star, nudging Liverpool awry, and boy what a signing she will be when confirmed!
Her World Cup campaign put her on the map, sheer quality and ruthless in attack with both feet. Miyazawa capitalised within a flash of seeing the ball, two touches and its in the back of the net, twice. Ask Spain how that one feels!
At only 23 years old, she offers another colossal threat down the flanks. Or has she got the potential to slot in the number 10 role? Yknow, that one of Ella Toone&aposs
Needless to say, whoever suits up for United come October 1 will be rather intimidating. Skinner&aposs attacking roster looks rather ridiculous, especially if Leah Galtons performance levels continue as it did last year – 10 league goals and four assists to boot.
Lets not rule out the potential to call Adrianna Leon back from the NWSL either. She&aposs easily the fastest striker to grace Leigh Sports Village, and why Skinner eluded playing her Ill never know, but shes able to return to Old Blighty if needed, thanks to having a year left on her contract.
Top that all off with a Rachel Williams dessert, the cherry on the top if you will. As always the 35-year-old will be at hand for a last-minute effort on goal a true, old-school work-horse to lead the line and impact change.
It begs the question if United will stick to their 4-2-3-1 line-up. There&aposs scope for Skinner to follow Sarina Wiegman&aposs idea of putting five in the middle and two up top to accommodate his attacking threat. Hayley Ladd slotting into the holding number four role, Katie Zelem just in front with Toone, Galton and Miyazawa. Geyse and Fuso as strikers.
But enough with the front line, when asking United boss Skinner about his attacking success, he almost always credits the solid base of his defenders.
Batlle, Maya Le Tissier, Millie Turner and Hannah Blundell went mostly unchanged throughout the last campaign which incidentally meant the Reds conceded the least goals all year in the league – not a bad brag. Yet, Skinner&aposs fully aware squad rotation will be key to juggling the league, domestic cups and Europe in the upcoming season.
The burning question on my mind is Le Tissier. The 21-year-old narrowly missed out on Wiegmans World Cup selection claiming shes seen more as a fullback despite her albeit faultless and mature centre-half performances. Would the club seek to aid the defender and bolster her chances for an international career, or not?
Sticking her at full-back doesn&apost suit her style of play in my opinion. Fantastic long ball distribution and stepping in to challenge close-quarters, but demanding she run the ball out to mimic Batlle brings a feeling of unease – and I&aposm not the one on the pitch!?
The shift out-wide would put Riviere or Blundell out of business. And then there&aposs Aoife Mannions return to fitness – who can also cover a wider position if need be. The arrival of Evans, coupled with Turner&aposs stoic season, will undoubtedly keep fans guessing who will get the call, especially considering Evans and Ladd team up at the back for Wales – throwing yet another name into the defence hat.