Stoney: The players did themselves proud
Casey Stoney felt she "couldn't have asked for anything more" from her players as Manchester United Women narrowly missed out on a place in the SSE Women's FA Cup semi-finals.
After a goalless 90 minutes, the Reds took the lead on two separate occasions, only for the Royals to come back and snatch a late winner following a free-kick to triumph 3-2 and advance to the next round.
Speaking after the game, Stoney was honest in how disappointed the players and staff were to be eliminated from the competition, but outlined how this has given extra determination to end the season with a trophy by winning the FA Women's Championship.
"I couldn’t have asked any more from them in terms of effort and application," Stoney said. "The players really applied themselves out there and I thought they did themselves proud. I’m not going to criticise them, because they gave me everything today.
Women's highlights: Casey's Reds in Cup thriller
Watch the goals from a dramatic Women's FA Cup quarter-final as United Women travelled to Adams Park to face Reading...
"They’re devastated and we’ve got to dust ourselves down now, pick ourselves back up, learn from the lessons and we’ve got a league to win now and that’s what we want to do."
The Reds do not have long to wait to be back in action. On Sunday, Casey's squad will face Charlton Athletic away, knowing that a win and Tottenham dropping points against Sheffield United would secure top spot in the league with a game in hand.
This weekend's fixture between the Reds and the Addicks was meant to be played in January but had to be postponed after an injury to Charlton's Charlotte Kerr.
Despite the disappointment of last weekend, Stoney affirmed that the players remain fully focused and that the remaining six fixtures in the league will spurn the players on to end the season with the league title.
"We’re in a good position, we know what we’ve got to do," she said. "I said to them they need to have their moment to be disappointed and reflect and not to forget this feeling, because it’s horrible. We don’t want to be here again.
"We'll learn from it and we’re back in training to prepare for the next league game."
Extremely proud of the effort by the players today. Not our finest performance in possession and we have lots of lessons to learn. Win, lose or draw we learn together. We are all extremely disappointed but we will analyse, learn and bounce back. Thanks to the best fans around— Casey Stoney MBE (@CaseyStoney) March 17, 2019
The team's skipper Alex Greenwood provided an insight into the overall mood of the dressing room after the defeat but, like her manager, she was clear on what the Reds need to do between now and the end of the campaign.
"We're absolutely devastated, because we were so close, but it wasn’t meant to be. We’ll reflect and we will learn and we’ll come back a better outfit. This club expects cup finals and trophies and we do too, but I’m proud of the team in the seven months from where we’ve come."
"Our focus now is to win the league and do it properly. We’ll put all our focus into that now. We’ve got some really important games coming up and they’re all must win. We must win our next games coming up and our attention turns to that now."
United Women's next home match is scheduled for 19:00 BST on Wednesday 17 April when Aston Villa visit Leigh Sports Village in the Women's Championship. Match tickets will be on sale at www.manutd.com/womenstickets.