United Women's 2022 Review: Part One
It has been quite the year for Manchester United Women, who go into the new year third in the league.
We’re looking back at each month that made the last year one to remember for our Reds, starting with January through to June in the first instalment of our 2022 review…
United Women: Best of 2022
From Old Trafford to the Emirates, Manchester to Toulouse, here are the best bits from United Women's memorable 2022...
United entered the new year threatening to break into the elusive WSL top three, and for a large portion of the season pushed eventual league champions, Chelsea, to the top of their game.
A triple transfer swoop on the winter deadline day would see us sign current squad member Jade Moore, along with temporary reinforcements Diane Caldwell and Signe Bruun.
The Reds ended this month undefeated, including a memorable win over Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup thanks to a late Alessia Russo header on the end of a Katie Zelem free-kick – coincidentally, this wouldn’t be the only time this year that this combination would sink the Gunners in the dying minutes…
While January saw us pick up four wins on the bounce, February told a different story as we faced the ‘big three’ in all four games, unable to register a win (three losses, one draw).
The month began with a brutal blow in our bid for Conti Cup glory, getting knocked out by Chelsea 3-1 in the semi-finals. After beating Arsenal in the cup, we met them once again but this time it was in the Women’s Super League and despite taking an early lead through Russo, Stina Blackstenius’s 80th-minute strike ensured a point for the Gunners who played the final 15 minutes with 10 players following Katie McCabe’s red card.
Another blow came in the FA Cup, as our neighbouring rivals Manchester City knocked us out in the fifth round, two weeks on from their 1-0 victory against us in the league.
Highlights: United Women v Everton
Watch the top moments from a momentous match for our women's team at Old Trafford...
The third calendar month of the year saw the Reds go undefeated yet again. In four instalments of the WSL, three wins and one draw against West Ham would see us get things rolling once more, after a difficult February.
But the highlight of the month, of course, was a first Old Trafford outing in front of supporters since the establishment of our professional team. In 2021, we had our first game at the Theatre of Dreams, beating West Ham 2-0 thanks to goals from former Reds Lauren James and Christen Press, but it was a match played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This time it was Everton who travelled to Old Trafford, and despite Claire Emslie’s 4th-minute opener, goals from Alessia Russo (2) and Katie Zelem sealed all three points on yet another great occasion.
Highlights: Chelsea v United Women
Watch all the key moments from Sunday's season finale for United Women, away to Chelsea...
April was among our quieter months, playing just twice in the league. A narrow 1-0 victory over Brighton and a 0-0 draw away to Aston Villa would see us into the month of May, where our final two games of the season would await, as our pursuit of a Champions League spot continued.
Our penultimate game of the season was a convincing 3-0 win over West Ham, that saw all three points very much wrapped up by the hour mark, when our third goal went in.
A final-day fixture against Chelsea made for an entertaining affair, with United needing to win to have any chance of securing European qualification, while the Blues were looking to pip Arsenal to another WSL title. We took the lead twice at Kingsmeadow, first through Martha Thomas and again through Ella Toone, but Emma Hayes’s ran out 4-2 winners on the end, meaning a third successive league title for them and another fourth-place finish in the 2021/22 WSL for the Reds, at the end of an encouraging campaign.
With the season over, our dynamic duo of Russo and Toone were recognised for their efforts upon the conclusion of the 21/22 campaign. After earning the highest percentage of the fan vote, Toone was named United’s Player of the Year. Russo, meanwhile, earned the plaudits of her team-mates and was awarded the Player’s Player of the Year accolade.
But attention soon turned to the upcoming season, and it was announced our intentions to participate in the French AMOS Cup in August, with our first opponent being Paris Saint-Germain. It also marked the start of our transfer activity, with Diane Caldwell and Martha Harris leaving the club following the conclusion of their contracts.
Seven of our international Reds at the time, meanwhile, were selected to represent their nations at the upcoming Euro 2022. Russo, Toone and Mary Earps were named in England’s squad, while Ona Batlle was picked for Spain, Vilde Boe Risa and Maria Thorisdottir for Norway, and Jackie Groenen for the Dutch.
January to June only tells half of the story, and we'll be delving in to a memorable second half of the year in part two of United Women's 2022 review on Thursday, most notably looking back on a history making summer for our England players, and another special afternoon at the Theatre of Dreams.