While Jose Mourinho and the men have failed to impress thus far this campaign, there are no such complaints with regards to Casey Stoney’s ladies. Unbeaten after 7 games and with a goal difference of +31, MU women sit in second; just two points behind the league leaders Spurs with a game in hand. In spite of the fact that Stoney was keen to keep expectations to a minimum, there is no getting away from the fact that there is genuine quality in this team. This team is on the up and the ladies will be determined to gain automatic promotion come the end of the season. Crystal Palace were the latest team to be swept aside at the weekend and as usual, I spoke to Damon Morris on all things MU women. He gives his thoughts on the 5-0 victory and the brilliance of Alex Greenwood, amongst other things. As usual, a great contribution from Damon who does great work for Red Devil Talk and the women’s side of the website.
Hi Damon. The unbeaten run continues. What did you make of the performance against Crystal Palace?
Hello Jimmy. Yes. An unbeaten run that I expect to be intact come the end of the season. I think our captain – Alex Greenwood – summed it up simply but perfectly after the full time whistle: it was a game of two halves in terms of how we performed, but they certainly got the job done in the second half after an average first 45 minutes. You can’t really have too many negatives from a 5-0 victory away from home though, right?
Was the game as easy for United as the scoreline suggests?
They certainly didn’t make it look easy in the first half but that was partly down to the the oppositions tactics. Palace knew it could be a long afternoon if they went behind early so when they did after Arnot’s goal in the 17th minute, you could see the tackles starting to go in a bit heavier, trying to put United’s players off their usually fluent football. It made it quite a fiercely fought first half. Palace had a couple of decent chances themselves and could well have, and maybe should have had a penalty. The slender lead at the break was probably undeserved on the run of play although Toone should have made it 2-0 from 6 yards out but put it agonisingly wide. After the break, they had to soak up some early pressure from the home team who came out after half time looking for an equaliser and came very close twice. First from Burr, and then Whinnett minutes later. After the 55 minute mark, Arnot changed the game with her second. From then on it was cruise control and flood gates opened.
United were dangerous from the flanks at the weekend. How important are our wingers in this team?
Very important. A lot of our goals this season have come from crosses from the wide areas. It doesn’t matter who’s playing in those positions, our full-backs and wingers always seem to have a good understanding going forward and cover each other well defensively, they all know how to cross a ball too. They must be terrible to try and defend against! Their jobs may be out on the wings, but they cover so much of the pitch; they pop up everywhere and always interchange with each other. They are key to the way we play and it was clear to see on Sunday as Zelem and Hanson combined to set up Arnot’s opener. I love watching Kirsty Hanson play down the wing, she doesn’t stop and will never give up, she’ll chase anything down and fight for every ball. Jess Sigsworth and her fellow strikers must love playing in this United side, if they’re sniffing around in the box they know they’ll be found by a good ball in from anywhere on the pitch.
Two goals apiece from Arnot & Green. Is it fair to say they were the stand out players?
You have got to have had a decent game when you score a brace, although some might say Arnot scored a couple of tap-ins. She works extremely hard for the team and you have to be a good player to be in the right place at the right time. Mollie Green’s second was a beauty curled from distance just in off the post after a well worked Greenwood corner, who also had a brilliant game down the left. It was great to see the captain score her first goal from the penalty spot too. Full-back Martha Harris who also came close to scoring her first goal for the club in the first half also had another strong performance going forward.
With United just 1-0 up at half-time, what will have been said in the dressing room at half time?
To put it simply: a lot! The manager would not have been happy at the break and she made her feelings known by making a change as striker Jess Sigsworth who was being rested came on in place of Ella Toone. Jess’s energy and hold up play certainly turned the game more in United’s favour. The captain spoke to the media after the game and confirmed there were strong words between them all in the interval as it was well under par for their standards. Whatever was said certainly worked.
What about the contribution of Alex Greenwood?
I don’t call her captain fantastic for nothing. She’s a proper captain and leads by example. You can see her influence on and off the pitch and I’m sure she would have been leading the half-time discussions. She’s more than just a great captain, she’s a fantastic player which you would expect from a full England International. Further, she loves bombing forward and getting crosses in. You won’t find many full-backs who tot up as many assists as she does and she whips in a great corner. You wouldn’t have thought a Lioness in the top division would make that drop to the Championship but luckily we’re Man Utd and she can see where the club is going and wants to be part of it.
Up next is Millwall Lionesses. What kind of a challenge will they pose?
No disrespect to the opposition but we’re flying it. At home, facing the only team yet to win so far this season, a team who have conceded 31 goals in their opening 8 fixtures; I am not expecting anything but a comfortable afternoon for the women in front of the home fans. Tottenham and Charlton both cruised to 8-0 victories recently so I’d say if we were to beat the 12-0 win over Villa this could be the game to do it.
Tactically, where do you – if anywhere – think this Utd team can improve? The thought that they can improve further is bad news for everybody else isn’t it?
I don’t think you can have too many complaints tactically when you’re winning pretty comfortably every week. One thing I would say is on Katie Zelem, I’d like to see her playing a further 10-15 yards up the pitch in a more attacking role and not sitting so deep. She has a great eye for those little passes in and around the box that can punish defences and it would be nice to see more often but I understand it’s difficult to fit all our attacking talent in one starting eleven. It may not be good news for the opposition in this division but the Super League will be another level so we need to keep improving wherever we can and Casey Stoney will know this, she’s keen to keep pushing this group of players all the way to the top.