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Manchester United facing an exodus

Following the end of the season, United’s head coach and five players have left so far.

Casey Stoney and Christen Press will not return to Manchester United
Lynn Cameron for the FA

Since the announcement that Casey Stoney was stepping down as head coach, departures from Manchester United have piled up. Jess Sigsworth, Jane Ross, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, and Amy Turner have all left the club, with more rumored to be leaving.

Jess Sigsworth, Amy Turner, and Millie Turner from left to right
ManUtdWomen on Twitter

This was Manchester United’s second season in the FA WSL after topping the FA Women’s Championship in the 2018/19 season and earning promotion to the WSL ahead of the 2019/20 season. The Red Devils started off strongly in the 2020/21 season going unbeaten in the first 10 matches however, eventually suffered their first loss of the season in January to eventual champions, Chelsea. United ended the season in fourth place with 47 points and a record of 15-2-5, but that wasn’t enough to earn one of three Champions League spots afforded to the top three finishers of the WSL.

Training facilities not good enough

After Casey Stoney left, it was revealed that the training facilities were part of the reason why she decided to leave. The team trained at Leigh Sports Village but moved to Carrington after a number of injuries were picked up at Leigh Sports Village. Tobin Heath, Alessia Russo, and Leah Galton picked up injuries during training, all of who were having impressive seasons before their respective injuries. When the women’s team moved to Carrington, they had to work around the men’s training schedule. Promises of better training facilities have been going on since 2018 but until now, nothing has quite come into fruition. When the team was reintroduced in 2018, the board at Manchester United stated that they would improve facilities at The Cliff, the men’s former training facility, so the women could train there. That has not happened. Stoney’s departure prompted the club to once again state that they would make those proposed improvements but with so many departures, it seems as though those promises are hollow.

Missing faces

Manchester United will have to replace a number of veteran presences ahead of next season. Jess Sigsworth was the first player to announce that she was leaving. A mainstay of the team since 2018, she has been rumored to be joining Leicester City, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Jane Ross will also be departing as her United contract expires after two seasons and 34 appearances. Christen Press and Tobin Heath signed one-year deals in the summer of 2020 but were not expected to extend those contracts once they were done. A return to the NWSL seems likely after the Tokyo Olympics for the USWNT stars. Casey Stoney is rumored to make the move to the NWSL expansion club in San Diego, so it is possible that Heath and or Press could be coached by Stoney yet again.

Amy Turner had been with United since 2018 as well but has now joined NWSL side the Orlando Pride.

Amy Turner after joining the Orlando Pride
Mark Thor for Orlando Pride

Lauren James may be headed away from Manchester as well, although nothing is official. James began her professional career at Arsenal, but many think she will be headed to southwest London to Chelsea to join up with her brother, Reece. Rumors of James’ move to Chelsea have been building for months, but United doesn’t want to let the star go.

Although United has lost some big names, they still have some top-level talent. Ona Battle, Jackie Groenen, and Ella Toone are just some of the important players that will play for United next season. There have not been any signings made to replace players lost, but those may come once a coach is hired. It will be another tight WSL season in 2021/22, but Manchester United can at the very least compete for a Champions League spot with the remaining players.