The new Manchester United Women head coach, Casey Stoney, has spoken exclusively about her appointment and the club's importance in the female game...
Firstly, why did you choose Manchester United?
“Lots of different reasons, one being that you can’t hide away from the fact that Manchester United is the biggest club in the world. The fact that they are going to have a women’s team and I’m going to be able to introduce that from scratch, to build a team, build a philosophy, with the biggest club in the world, there is for me no more exciting opportunity.”
Was it difficult to leave your post with Phil Neville at England?
“Yeah, obviously it was a big decision for me to do that. Phil’s been fantastic with me, he’s a great coach, a great manager, but he really encouraged me to take this opportunity. He knows what a club it is, he knows the fantastic opportunity it is. Yes after 18 years of playing and now coaching it’s a big move to step away, but it’s the right move. It’s the right opportunity at the right time with such a great club.”
“I see it as a challenge, for me it’s an opportunity to form something, to create something, to mould a team your own way, to get the players in, coach them, work with them and create something from scratch – it is really exciting. I truly believe that Manchester United has the ability to change the face of women’s football forever.”
How much is your experience going to help you?
“I’ve learnt so much throughout the years of playing, I’ve played 18 years of international football, I’ve been at so many different clubs under so many different coaches and managers. I’ve coached for 17 years because when I was growing up you had to have a job, so my job the whole time was coaching at the teams I was working at. So I’ve learnt so much, loads of positive experiences and the negatives, and even when you have negatives I feel that it’s an opportunity to learn. How would I have done it differently? And I won’t ever forget those lessons, good and bad I’ll take them with me on my journey.”
“Well you’ve changed it already by having a women’s team. That never has to happen again, you never have to lose a player because there wasn’t a pathway for them. The pathway is there now. I’m a big believer whether it’s an under-10, under-12, under-14, right the way through to seniors, the pathway should be visible. They should be able to see it, if they can see it they can believe in it and we give them the opportunity to achieve it and come be on the journey. An under-10 in 10 years time should be in the first-team at Manchester United.”
How important is it that the biggest team in the land embraces women’s football?
“It’s huge. It was the main reason I took the opportunity because I believe that Man United are going to do it properly, they’re going to invest in the women’s game, they have the opportunity to change the face of women’s football. It’s the biggest club in world - commercially marketing globally the brand, it’s exciting. The players are excited, the women’s game is excited and it’s a massive journey to go on, but an exciting one.”
Do you expect a senior Manchester United team help the national team?
“For me it’s going to be huge if we can produce players of the future that can go on and represent England. We want to leave the same legacy in the women’s game at Manchester United as the men’s game has left.”
Are you looking forward to working at the Cliff?
“Yeah defiantly. I was actually fortune enough to work with Eric Harrison and he was a bit mental with me when I worked at the David Beckham Academy. He spoke about the amount of work that went on and the history there and the players that came out of there, so to be able to be part of that history. It’s a dream come true.”
What springs to mind when you think of the words Manchester United?
“Winning. Success. Legacy. It’s the biggest club that I’ve ever been involved in and I’ve been involved with some big clubs. But to be able to be involved here and have a women’s team it’s just going to take women’s football to a whole new level.”
“I’m going to need a bit of guidance. I’m going to need a guide around. No, I know it a little bit, obviously I don’t live too far anyway. It’s a fantastic city it’s up and coming, for me it’s great in terms of transport links and fans - the fan base is huge here. If we can get some of those watching the women’s team it’s going to be great.”
What’s your ultimate ambition for the club?
“My ultimate aim is to grow this team so that every little girl growing up dreams when she’s older she wants to play for Manchester United, because they’re the most successful team in women’s football.”