Seven talking points from our 2021/22 WSL fixtures
The fixtures for the 2021/22 FA Women’s Super League were released on Friday and we can now begin to mark our calendars with the key dates in Manchester United Women’s season.
With the television picks yet to be confirmed, the exact dates for our games are still to be set in stone, but last week's fixture release means we can begin to plot how the upcoming campaign may shape up and there are plenty of talking points to boot.
So here are seven things we have noted, from the opening-day meeting with Reading, to our final-day showdown with Chelsea, and everything in between...
The Reds will have the opportunity to play in front of the United supporters for the first time in a competitive match since before the pandemic when Reading are the visitors to Leigh Sports Village on the opening weekend of the season. Our last match played with fans in attendance coincidentally came against the Royals at the Madejski Stadium back in December, when a small portion of the socially distanced Reading faithful watched our 2-1 victory in Berkshire, in what turned out to be our only game with fans inside the ground across the 2020/21 season. We will be hoping that our ‘Barmy Army’ turn up in numbers for the game on the weekend of the 3-5 September and give us that extra backing once again as we look to kick off the season by overcoming the only side that beat us on home soil last season.
NEW WSL OPPOSITION
Following that contest on the opening weekend against Reading, a first road trip of the season follows with Farley Way Stadium the destination where we will face WSL newcomers Leicester City. The Midlands outfit topped the FA Women’s Championship last term, earning promotion to the top-flight of the women’s game for the first time in their history. They also booked their place in the last eight of the FA Cup, which will resume in the autumn, following their fifth-round triumph over United in May. The Reds do have the better of the league meetings with the Foxes prior to that game between 10-12 September and the reverse fixture in March 2022 however, having done the double over Jonathan Morgan’s side by an aggregate score of 13-1 during the 2018/19 Championship season, in our only two league duels to date.
Off the back of that trip to Leicester, United close out an action-packed season-opening month by welcoming champions Chelsea to Leigh Sports Village at the end of September, for what is one of the standout fixtures from our schedule’s early set of games. The Blues were the visitors for our opening match of the previous term, where we battled out a 1-1 draw with Emma Hayes’s side in the north-west sunshine, and this one looks set up to be just as enticing a contest.
The Manchester derby is the first game many will have looked for, and we do not have too long to wait for our first clash of the season with our crosstown rivals. It is City who take the turn of being the visiting side first, just as they were last season, with the Blues set to make the trip to Leigh Sports Village between 8-10 October. This fixture has produced mouth-watering contests aplenty in recent years in WN7, where the sides have shared 11 goals in the four total meetings across all competitions.
We went into last season’s Christmas break unbeaten and it is an impressive feat that we will once again have our fingers crossed to repeat, and prolong, in the upcoming campaign. The visit of Aston Villa is the final match in our 2021 diary before we begin the new year three weeks or so later with a trip to the capital to face West Ham United between 7-9 January 2022.
AN IMPORTANT FEBRUARY
Fixture schedules always seem to throw up runs with a thread of big matches in succession and that is no different in this case. There will be no love lost in the month of February as we play at two of our biggest rivals, with a derby at Manchester City, but first, a trip to Arsenal, on back-to-back weekends. Can the Reds register our first-ever away league wins at City or Arsenal?
The business end of the season features games against Brighton, Aston Villa and West Ham for United in April with the outcome of each likely to have a big impact on our final league position in the 2021/22 WSL table. However, you can be forgiven for naturally having your eye drawn to our final-day visit to Chelsea in May. We narrowly lost out on our last visit to Kingsmeadow in January, but we will have a good omen to take into that game, with a 100 per cent record to boast of from games on the final weekend of our previous league seasons (played two, won two).
Please note that all fixtures are subject to change.