Alex Greenwood the jewel in Casey Stoney’s Manchester United crown

The new Manchester United manager, Casey Stoney, last week unveiled the 21 players she has assembled to lead the women’s team into their maiden season in the women’s Championship. Big-name players have been expected by fans since the founding of the team was announced. Yet while Stoney has brought in the experienced England internationals Siobhan Chamberlain and Alex Greenwood, the bulk of the squad – which has an average age of 21 – are young players with huge potential.

Here is a look at the squad from back to front:


Stoney’s former Liverpool teammate Chamberlain is the oldest player in the side at 34. Dropping down to the second tier in a World Cup year is a risk but, with Chelsea’s Carly Telford seemingly Phil Neville’s preferred keeper at present, it is a risk worth taking. United have opted for a player with bags of top-level experience, but her back-up is just as exciting. In Chamberlain’s charge are the former United youth players Emily Ramsey and Fran Bentley, signed from Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. Both 17, Ramsey has represented England up to under-20 level while Bentley plays for the under-17s. Ramsey is regarded as one of the best young keepers in the country and could well be called on at the Under-20 World Cup this summer.


Securing the signature of the England left-back Greenwood is huge. Handed the captaincy by Stoney, who played alongside her at Liverpool, the 24-year-old played in the 2015 bronze medal winning World Cup side and was involved in the Lionesses’ 2017 European Championship campaign. Known for a fierce left foot and set-piece prowess it would have taken a lot to entice her into the second tier. However, with Liverpool going through major changes, big ambitions in Manchester and the offer of the armband, it is easy to see why she has made the move.

Signing England’s Alex Greenwood is a major coup for Manchester United

Signing England’s Alex Greenwood is a major coup for Manchester United. Photograph: McManus for FA/REX/Shutterstock/McManus for FA/Rex/Shutterstock

The full-back Martha Harris and centre-half Amy Turner were also stalwarts of the Liverpool defence last season. They are joined by two more acquisitions from Liverpool – the former United youth player Naomi Hartley and Lucy Roberts. Both are current under-17 England internationals with bags of potential, and Roberts has a little bit of United history – her great grandfather Charlie Roberts was the first captain to lead Manchester United out at Old Trafford.

The versatile former Hibernian full-back Kirsty Smith is the only non-Liverpool recruit at the back. Smith played under Stoney’s assistant manager, Willie Kirk.


Millie Turner plays in the middle and at 21 was handed the Bristol City captaincy by Kirk. Now 22, she is one of the more experienced heads in Stoney’s midfield. Turner and her fellow midfielder Katie Zelem both started their careers at United. Zelem has excited ever since she broke into Liverpool’s first team in their 2014 title-winning season. At the start of the 2017-18 campaign the highly regarded young player surprised many by choosing to join Juventus but she returns to Manchester with a title medal and an enhanced reputation.

Like Smith, Lizzie Arnot joins having played for Kirk at Hibs. The Scotland international was forced out of the country’s Euro 2017 campaign with an ACL injury which also ended a rumoured move to Manchester City. She scored eight goals as Hibs finished second in the Scottish Premier League behind Glasgow City.

Mollie Green and Charlie Devlin, both 20, join from Everton and Millwall respectively. Both had established themselves in their first teams with Devlin finishing as the fifth highest scorer in the second tier last season.

Completing the midfield is another of Kirk’s Bristol City youngsters Aimee Palmer and the talented Arsenal 16-year-old Lauren James. James’s Arsenal departure is somewhat of a surprise but with a host of experienced players ahead of her in London the opportunity to try and make a breakthrough as part of a young team in the second tier was clearly enough to turn her head.


Leah Galton announced she would be leaving Bayern Munich after three months and before the season’s close to take a step back from football. Now the 24-year-old has re-emerged as the most experienced player in Stoney’s attack. The left-winger made 30 appearances in the US for Sky Blue FC before her move to Germany.

Joining Galton are the Doncaster Rovers Belles pair of Jess Sigsworth and Kirsty Hanson. The pair formed a formidable partnership that saw them finish as top scorer and third-highest scorer in the second tier last season with 16 and nine goals respectively as the Belles won the league with a 10-point cushion. Ebony Salmon and Ella Toone complete the lineup. The pacy 17-year-old Salmon broke into the Aston Villa first team last season and turned heads with seven goals in 12 games. Toone, 18, who will almost certainly be heading to France for the Under-20 World Cup, has left Manchester City for the second tier.


With all the Merseyside signings Stoney is taking a top-tier defence that is used to playing together into the Championship. Liverpool’s goal difference was only three last season, after they conceded 27 in the league, and there was discontent in the dressing room. While not the solidest of back lines, it is an experienced professional defence that will be playing in a semi-professional league. While there is a really solid base to the team, injury could be its undoing and, with Chamberlain taken to hospital on a spinal board after a collision in the club’s first pre-season friendly against Liverpool on Sunday (which was abandoned at 0-0 as a result), the balance of Stoney’s side could be quickly disrupted and she may be forced to turn to her youngsters sooner than she hoped.

In front of the more experienced defence Stoney’s side is packed with young attacking talent. Goals are just as likely from a technically gifted midfield and the speedy winger as from the potent frontline she has recruited.

Talking points

With the first pre-season games at the weekend, there was a flurry of signings announced late last week. Liverpool were the biggest movers with five players unveiled including the forward Courtney Sweetman-Kirk who has joined from Everton. West Ham have continued to strengthen before their maiden WSL season with the Netherlands international Tessel Middag coming in while Ellie Brazil has moved to Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion side after a season with Fiorentina.

The tier-two champions, Doncaster Rovers Belles, have said they will be dropping down to the amateur third tier as the financial demands of competing in the new semi-professional league are too much. As a result Crystal Palace, who had initially missed out on a place in the Championship, have been granted a licence by the FA.

Southampton have recruited the former England international Marianne Spacey-Cale as the new head of their Girls and Women’s Football Technical Department. The club have launched a senior side having previously had only youth provisions.

Lianne Sanderson has joined her former England teammate Eni Aluko at Juventus. The 30-year-old forward started her career with Arsenal, winning 12 trophies, before moving to Chelsea and playing in Spain and the US.


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