United Women: Focus on our wingers
Manchester United Women head coach Marc Skinner’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system means it’s vital our wingers offer genuine width and consistent end product.
Leah Galton, in particular, has been in excellent form this season. Blessed with a superb left foot, the 27-year-old was voted WSL Player of the Month for January after firing three goals and one assist in our 5-0 defeat of Birmingham and 3-0 win against Tottenham.
“I know I needed to pick it up a little bit after a bit of a slow start to the season so I’m just really happy to get under way,” said Galton in her typically laser-focused mantra of improvement.
A pacy runner with the ball, Galton has adapted her game this season from the chalk-on-your-boots left-winger of past seasons to become a more direct goal threat from a slightly narrower starting position. She has even filled in as a highly attacking left-back, as seen in the 5-0 defeat of Aston Villa in December.
Two seasons later, Galton moved to German giants Bayern Munich but after struggling to settle, she linked up with the Reds for our inaugural season in 2018/19. Since then she’s been a regular under both Skinner and his predecessor Casey Stoney.
Often deployed on the right of Skinner’s attacking midfield trident, Hanson has also followed her coach’s narrower brief to great effect, getting on the ball more to create chances for Toone and Russo. She’s also a dab hand at scoring and her strike in the season-opening 2-0 defeat of Reading was the first goal to be shown live on Sky Sports as part of a multi-million-pound three-year broadcasting deal.
“It was something special,” she said, after some wild celebrations.
“I just went a bit crazy. We had fans back after the pandemic and I’d totally forgotten we were on Sky Sports. I was like, ‘I need to calm down!’”
A triumph in persistence, Hanson came through our Centre of Excellence as a child before leaving for Liverpool in 2015, aged 17, in search of senior football.
Following second-tier spells at Sheffield United and Doncaster Belles – scoring an impressive 10 times in 18 league games in 2017/18 for the latter – Hanson returned to United in 2018 and played a crucial role in our promotion to the WSL.
Hanson’s mother was an elite-level athlete and it’s through Kirsty’s tireless attitude to self-improvement off the pitch – she has a degree in sports coaching and has done a course in sports business, too – that she keeps getting quicker on it.