Man Utd Women 2-0 Reading: our top 3 heroes & villains plus player ratings

Find out who starred for the Red Devils’ in Friday’s inaugural game of the new campaign.
Marc Sinner. Credit: Getty.Marc Sinner. Credit: Getty.
Marc Sinner. Credit: Getty.

Manchester United Women kicked off the 2021/22 WSL season with a 2-0 victory over Reading on Friday, with Kirsty Hanson and Ona Batlle grabbing the goals.

It was a great night for the home fans at Leigh Sports Village, who saw their side in the flesh for the first time since January 2020, while debutantes Hannah Blundell, Aoife Mannion, Vilde Boe Risa and Martha Thomas all impressed.

The game was also an historic one as it was the first to be shown live in the UK after the the landmark TV deal which was announced ahead of the new season - a campaign which is expected to be the biggest so far in the women’s game.

The heroes

  • Sky Sports: After securing the rights for the WSL, along with BBC Sport, Sky couldn’t have picked a better match to get things underway. While the match itself was nothing special, the return of fans, a big name like United and no clashing international or Football League fixtures meant the eyes of the footballing world were on Leigh for one night.
  • Kirsty Hanson: The Scottish international grabbed the first live WSL goal on Sky Sports, with an unorthodox yet superb finish in the latter stages of the first half. It also gave the Red Devils the lead at an important stage of the game.
  • Marc Skinner: The former Birmingham City manager has big shoes to fill when it comes to replacing Casey Stoney, so he’ll be delighted to get started with a win. After a slow opening, United controlled the game from around 20 minutes and managed proceedings well in the latter stages.

The villains

  • Millie Turner: The centre-back was a vital member of Stoney’s side and rarely missed a game under the former England international. However, in Skinner’s first game he opted to drop Turner in place of Aoife Mannion and Maria Thorisdottir.
  • Match officials: Technology still isn’t utilised in the WSL and two big decisions went for United on Friday. Firstly, Brooke Chaplen smashed a shot that seemed very close to crossing the line and minutes later Leah Galton was ruled onside in the build-up to Batlle’s goal. Both decisions were extremely tight, but the lack of technology certainly didn’t help the referee and her officials.
  • Reading defence: The visitors had encouraging spells at Leigh Sports Village but ultimately United looked so much more solid defensively than the Royals. Reading were also wasteful in possession on several occasions, which, had Skinner’s side been more ruthless, could have resutled in a few extra goals.

Player ratings: (4-2-3-1) Earps 6; Blundell 7, Mannion 6, Thorisdottir 8, Batlle 8; Zelem6 , Staniforth 7(Thomas 66; 7), Boe Risa 6 (Russo 76) , Hanson 6, Toone 6 (Groenen 66; 7), Galton 6.

What’s next for United?

The Red Devils have nine days to prepare for their next clash in the league, which is away to Leicester City next Sunday. With the Foxes facing Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon, Skinner will probably take the opportunity to conduct a mini scouting mission on the upcoming opponents.