Women's Under-21s win Northern title

Thursday 25 April 2024 11:50

Manchester United Women's Under-21s have clinched the Academy Northern Division title, after beating Leicester City on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Remarkably, the Reds were three goals down but second-half strikes from Aoife Farrell, Layla Proctor and Megan Sofield brought the game back level, securing the point required to claim the title.

A penalty shootout was then held to determine the extra point, as per league rules, and United were successful with all of our spot-kicks, as goalkeeper Jen Handy saved two from the Foxes.

The girls celebrate after their title win.

The opening 45 minutes were very stop-start, with the Reds being forced to make three changes due to injuries. 

Both sides struggled for rhythm, but it was Leicester who went in at half-time a goal to the good.

The Foxes added another couple after the break, but United's girls still showed belief that they could win the game.

Amelia Oldroyd switched the ball into Farrell’s path and she took it down perfectly and finished, before picking the ball out of the net and hurrying back to the centre circle, clearly feeling this was the start of the comeback.

Shortly after this, Olivia Francis got the ball on the right wing, faked a cross but took her touch further up the line, beating the full-back and allowing more United runners into the box. Her perfectly executed cross found the head of Proctor, who nodded over the Leicester keeper to make it 3-2.

United had all the momentum now and it was only a matter of time before another goal came. Another cross resulted in a foul on Sofield, who then stepped up to slot the penalty home with 22 minutes still to play.

The girls knew a draw would be enough to win the league but continued to knock on the door, seeing a couple of chances saved or blocked as we sought to lengthen our advantage.

Bodies were on the line at the other end too, with goalline clearances and brave goalkeeping aplenty to prevent Leicester restoring their lead.

Together in victory.

Ultimately though, United played out the draw, getting the point we required, before also prevailing on spot-kicks.

The girls showed incredible grit, determination, desire, togetherness, spirit and most of all character to come back, and the squad as a whole should be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved this season.

We will have the chance to win the National title on Wednesday, when we travel to Arsenal, while our Under-16s also take on the Gunners in the Under-16s PGA Cup final on Saturday.