It’s been a tempestuous summer for Manchester United so far.
At one stage last year it seemed as though European football was on the cards, but injuries to key personnel led to poor performances and they were eventually pipped to the post by rivals Arsenal.
But instead of strengthening the squad ahead of this season, the club have failed to keep hold of the majority of their top stars. Gone are Christen Press, Tobin Heath and most recently Lauren James –– who joined Chelsea in the worst kept transfer secret ever.
Casey Stoney also left her role as manager, joining the new San Diego based National Women’s Soccer League expansion team.
So how well can United do this year? United took a while appointing Stoney’s replacement but opted for Orlando Pride’s Marc Skinner in the end. This season Orlando went on a nine-game unbeaten streak –– the joint longest in their history.
The English manager also enjoyed a successful period with Birmingham. He guided the team to a fifth-place finish in the WSL during the 2017/18 season as well as an FA Cup final. His attacking style of football garnered a number of plaudits and he is credited with transforming the fortunes of the Blues during his spell in charge.
Given the way Skinner improved Birmingham, he seems a good appointment on paper. But this also suggests United recognise this season is a rebuilding phase.
There have been several incomings, including Hannah Blundell from Chelsea, Aoife Mannion from Man City, Martha Thomas from West Ham and Sophie Baggaley from Bristol City.
All come with WSL experience, yet Blundell and Mannion were not first choice options at their respective clubs and Thomas was less than prolific for West Ham last season.
When you consider how their rivals have strengthened over the summer, the gap between United and the teams they are chasing appears to be even bigger.
Arsenal have brought in Nikita Parris, City have signed Khadija Shaw and Chelsea have pinched James despite already boasting one of the strongest forward lines in the world.
Even Everton appear to be ahead of United when it comes to squad depth. Willie Kirk has brought in the experienced Toni Duggan and the versatile Kenza Dali among others.
Ultimately, United look to have a good manager in Skinner. They have also brought in several players with WSL pedigree. But they have not replaced their best players and despite coming so close to Champions League football last year, they may have to build their way up once again.