In detail: Earps's finest United displays
When assessing Mary Earps’s many strengths between the sticks, her anticipation of an incoming shot is arguably her leading quality.
She’s not a keeper prone to charging out her box, but rather one who prefers to stick close to her line, trusting her reactions to handle whatever might come her way.
From her 64 United appearances to date, let’s look at two standout performances – one from her early days, one from this season – as examples of Mary’s supreme agility.
The first was in just her second appearance for the club, in September 2019, when United lost 1-0 to reigning WSL champions Arsenal in painful circumstances, in what was also our first-ever WSL home game.
Having denied the Gunners’ Kim Little on several occasions, Mary then kept out Vivianne Miedema and Lisa Evans to leave the 2,530-strong crowd at Leigh Sports Village cheering her name on her home debut.
Sadly, Arsenal’s Danielle van de Donk would finally beat Earps in the 89th minute to take the points, but there was no debate when the Player of the Match award was announced that night: United’s no.27 in the purple top.
In more recent times, October’s 2-2 WSL draw against Manchester City deserves equal praise of Mary’s performance, after she pulled off a string of superb stops, and always with a strong hand, to deny Janine Beckie, among others.
In a thrilling game at Leigh Sports Village, City’s second goal was so cruel on Earps, after she somehow managed to push Jess Park’s long-rang shot on to the underside of the bar, only for Ellen White to pounce to tap in the rebound.
Nevertheless, while there was disappointment on the day that we didn’t get the win, Earps’s heroics saw us to a point that, come the season’s end, could prove vital in the Reds’ quest to reach the Champions League for the first time.
“The game had everything, including brilliant saves,” said Siobhan Chamberlain, as she praised her goalkeeping successor on BBC Radio 5 Live that day. “I feel like I need to take a breather!"