Meet United Women's forwards
Manchester United Women’s front line is young and exciting, with an impressive variety of traits and experiences across the board to give Marc Skinner options should he need to change things.
The longest-serving attacker, Ella Toone, also holds the record for most appearances for the Reds. Our no.7 – who is set to play her 99th game for United at Old Trafford this weekend – is an explosive forward with a real eye for goal, as evidenced by her 40 strikes for the club – another record.
Able to play anywhere across the attack, the England international came through the Centre of Excellence at United before moving to Blackburn Rovers (32 appearances), then Manchester City (nine appearances), eventually returning to the club in 2018 as part of Casey Stoney’s squad in our inaugural season.
As fans have increasingly come to appreciate since her arrival at the club in September 2020, Russo is a quick, powerful and dynamic no.9, who is skilled in holding up play to bring team-mates into the game, or taking on defenders herself. She’s also a real threat in the air, as Arsenal's centre-backs can attest from our two trips to Borehamwood this season.
A college sensation in the US with North Carolina Tar Heels, Kent-born Alessia – who had previously made a handful of appearances for Chelsea and Brighton prior to her stateside move in 2017 – decided to return home early as a result of lockdown restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘I never thought my senior year would end like this,’ she tweeted at the time. ‘To study at such a prestigious university was by far the [best] decision I have ever made.’ Stoney certainly wasn’t the only one back home to have kept a close eye on Russo's sparkling form in the States (28 goals in 57 games), but it was the United boss who managed to secure her signature – perhaps helped by the fact that seven-year-old Alessia had been a mascot for Charlton Athletic in 2006, walking out hand-in-hand with Stoney, who was the Addicks’ captain at the time.
After such a long time out, Alessia’s return to the team was managed carefully at the start of 2021/22, but under Skinner she is now firmly back among the goals, and at the time of writing leads the way for the Reds this term with nine.
An intelligent player and excellent in possession, much like Russo, Ivana’s debut season was disrupted by injury, but she scored her first goal for the club in October 2021, in a Continental Tyres League Cup meeting with Durham, before finding the net again in the same competition soon afterwards during a memorable victory over Manchester City.
Although born in Salvador, Brazil, a move to Germany as a youngster led to Ivana representing the German national team at various age groups – including as captain of their Under-19s – before she was called up by the Brazil senior squad last year. Debuting in the SheBelieves Cup, she now has four senior caps to her name for the Selecao.
Bruun was crowned Danish Player of the Year in 2021, and Skinner was delighted to sign a young player with such predatory attacking instincts, with her arrival creating a real buzz among the fan base. “She’s an exceptional player, and her ability to find the narrowest of spaces in the box and be so deadly in front of goal is something we’re really excited to see,” said Skinner in January.
An injury sustained last month has limited Bruun to just two starts and two sub appearances so far, but now she’s back in full training we’ll all be hoping to see some of her undoubted class in the weeks ahead.
It says everything about the raw talent of the United frontline that Martha Thomas is the oldest of the group, at the grand old age of 25. Signed from West Ham in July 2021 after two years with the London club, Martha is a powerful forward who likes to work the channels and get in behind, but she can also play effectively as a no.9. The Wiltshire-born player’s first goal for the Reds came in just her second appearance, away at Leicester. Much like that day at the King Power Stadium, she’s since proved a handy weapon to deploy from the bench, although she’s started the last four games, and could well do the same at Old Trafford this weekend – a year to the day on from her leading the line for West Ham against the Reds at the Theatre of Dreams.
Like Russo, Martha previously smashed in the goals in the US during her college days (47 goals in 78 league games across four ‘MVP’ terms with Charlotte 49ers) and, since returning to the WSL in 2019 via a season in France with Le Havre, international recognition has come with Scotland, for whom she has seven goals from 12 caps. Her strong work ethic is always evident, and Martha prides herself on being, in her own words, “an absolute nightmare for defenders” while persistently chasing down her opponents.