Meet United Women's full-backs
With exactly a week to go now until Manchester United Women take to the Old Trafford turf for the first time in front of fans, we’re continuing to bring you a detailed look at the Reds that make up Marc Skinner’s squad.
Today (Sunday), it’s the turn of the team’s defenders and in this case, our full-back quartet...
Catalonia-born 22-year-old Ona Batlle has proved a revelation since joining in July 2020 following the conclusion of her contract with Levante. She played in 23 of 27 games across all competitions last term, chipping in with three assists and being named United’s Player of the Season. “I have no words to describe how grateful I’m for everything I experienced this year,” said Batlle upon receiving the award. “It’s been a very special first year, but now we have to look ahead and continue learning and improving.”
And improve she did, notching her first goal in the 2021/22 season opener with a stunning long-range effort, also netting a memorable winner against Manchester City in the Continental League Cup. An energetic full-back who loves to get forward, she started all but one of our first 17 Women’s Super League outings this season and has continued to lend a hand to her team-mates with three more assists. Ona has 19 caps for Spain, helping them finish runners-up in the 2020 SheBelieves Cup during her first senior international tournament, and is likely to feature for her country at this summer’s European Championship in England.
Current no.6 Hannah Blundell brought a long association with Chelsea to an end when she moved to United last July, having spent part of her youth and all of her senior career with the Blues. After making her debut in 2013, the Sussex-born full-back went on to rack up the silverware, winning four WSL titles, the Spring Series, two FA Cups, two League Cups and the Community Shield. Her versatility made her an attractive option for Marc Skinner’s team, with football director John Murtough noting her ability to play on either side, while, like Batlle, she loves to push up whenever possible.
With Batlle and Blundell in such dynamic form down the two touchlines, Kirsty Smith has seen her 2021/22 playing time reduced compared to previous seasons, but she’s played well when called upon. United won all six of her first appearances of the current campaign, keeping clean sheets in five, and she showed a willingness to get involved higher up the pitch when she provided the assist for Hayley Ladd’s opener in the FA Cup win away to Bridgwater United in January. The 28-year-old Scot has been with the Reds since day one, playing in our first-ever game, a famous 1-0 win at Liverpool in August 2018, and was a familiar sight in defence that season, missing just four Championship games on the road to promotion. Having previously picked up much experience in the Scottish Women’s Premier League with Hibernian, Kirsty quickly settled into top-flight life south of the border following our 2019 promotion, and bagged her first United goal in November 2019, in the Conti Cup, en route to reaching 50 club appearances against Bristol City in May 2021. She’s closing in on a half-century of international caps for Scotland, too, and played in all three games at their first World Cup, in 2019.
Another member of the squad to have been with the Reds from the very start, Martha Harris might not be renowned for her attacking forays to the extent of her fellow full-backs, but she has brought much to the team as a more traditional full-back since the summer of 2018 – Harris is strong in the tackle, she’s rarely caught out of position, and her consistently precise decision-making with her passes is to be commended. Injuries have disrupted Martha’s season so far, meaning she was able to play only once before January.