Former Sky Blue winger Leah Galton and England internationals Alex Greenwood and Siobhan Chamberlain are the standout names as Manchester United announced the squad that will represent the club in the English Women’s Championship (second tier) this season.
The trio, who join 18 other players in being announced, will represent a United women’s team for the first time in 13 years, with the club only operating a girls academy, or Regional Talent Club (RTC), in that time.
Other notable names unveiled include former Juventus midfielder Katie Zelem, who came through the United academy, and Arsenal youngster Lauren James, who was well thought of at the Gunners and seen as their next big prospect.
There is plenty of Women’s Super League experience in the squad with the likes of Martha Harris, Amy Turner and Millie Turner having all played at the top level with Liverpool and Bristol City respectively.
But in truth, this is a squad that should walk the second tier. There is a solid mix of youth and experience, with an average age of just 21, and with Lioness Siobhan Chamberlain marshalling the troops from between the pipes, and Alex Greenwood captaining the side, United will be tough to beat.
The signing of Galton will no doubt interest fans of the NWSL, with the former Hofstra University forward making a good impression during her time with Sky Blue.
The announcement comes 24 hours after one of England’s most decorated women’s football clubs, Doncaster Rovers Belles, announced it would be dropping out of the same division that United will compete in with the financial requirements too much for the Yorkshire club.
The new structure put in place by the English Football Association has divided opinion amongst fans and those involved in the women’s game, with some clubs put under severe pressure to meet the criteria set out by the governing body. Sheffield FC have dropped out along with Doncaster, while Millwall Lionesses have seen a mass exodus of players after their future was thrown into uncertainty at the end of last season.
Manchester United will have no such problems. The club will run a professional setup in a semi-professional league and will have access to some of the best facilities around.
Head Coach Casey Stoney has said numerous times that she believes United can push the women’s game to new levels, and with a squad that should gain promotion at the first time of asking, the future already looks bright for the red side of Manchester.
The Manchester United squad in full with comment from Casey Stoney on each is as follows (former clubs in brackets):
Siobhan Chamberlain (formerly Liverpool)
Experienced international who has played in both the last World Cup and European Championship.
Casey Stoney said: “Siobhan’s experience will be vital with the youthful look of our squad. A real team player and a very driven individual. The thinker of the team.”
Emily Ramsey (Liverpool)
A previous Manchester United RTC player who is signing from Liverpool. At only 17 and an England youth international she has so much potential to develop. A great distributor and a safe pair of hands.
Casey Stoney said: “To be able to bring Emily back is fantastic. She has a fantastic future ahead of her and is a great addition to our squad. Emily can achieve whatever she wants and we will support her to get there.”
Fran Bentley (Man City)
A youth international who has signed from Manchester City. A young goalkeeper with lots of potential and the room to develop.
Casey Stoney said: “I’m really pleased Fran made the decision to come to United. She is a great character and has a huge amount of potential.”
Martha Harris (Liverpool)
Previous PFA Young Player of the Year. Competed in the 2014 U20 World Cup in Canada and can play as left or right full-back.
Casey Stoney said: “Martha has had some fantastic seasons at full-back and she adds real energy to our team. One of the best 1 v 1 defenders around.”
Alex Greenwood (Liverpool)
England international who has a great left foot, one of the best in the game. A previous young International Player of the Year. Competed in the 2015 World Cup and 2017 European Championships.
Casey Stoney said: “Signing Alex was very significant for us. She is an experienced international and has one of the best left foots in the game that will be vital to the way we want to play.”
Amy Turner (Liverpool)
A senior international with the desire and drive to win things. An aggressive tough-tackling centre-back with the ability to pick a pass.
Casey Stoney said: “I was really pleased when Amy decided to sign. She will drive our standards and keep the aggression on the pitch. Her ability to play out from the back was a key reason for us wanting her on board.”
Naomi Hartley (Liverpool)
U17 international who spent her youth years at Manchester United RTC. A tough strong central defender with lots of potential.
Casey Stoney said: “It’s great to be able to bring Naomi home. She has so much potential and I can’t wait to see how much we can develop her. She is strong and fearless.”
Lucy Roberts (Liverpool)
U17 international and coming across from Liverpool. Her great great grandad – Charlie Roberts was the first-ever captain to lead the Manchester United team out at Old Trafford.
Casey Stoney said: “Lucy has lots of potential and I’m looking forward to working with her to develop her game. A very focused young women with big aspirations.”
Kirsty Smith (Hibernian)
Scottish international who is lightening quick. Kirsty can play on either side at full-back.
Casey Stoney said: “Kirsty is a versatile full-back who can play both sides. She is very quick and will add great pace to our team. A focused and positive young woman.”
Aimee Palmer (Bristol City)
Only 17 year’s old but with a maturity way beyond her years. A holding midfielder with a great passing range. An U18 youth international.
Casey Stoney said: “Aimee is mature way beyond her years. She has the ability to change a game with a pass. I’m delighted she decided on United because there is so much more to come from her.”
Mollie Green (Everton)
A former youth international who is signing from Everton. A midfielder with lots of energy and good technical ability.
Casey Stoney said: “Mollie was one of my first signings. She has great technical ability, a great character and a really good team player. A midfielder who has the ability to change games.”
Katie Zelem (Juventus)
A previous youth international who has come from Juventus having previously played for Liverpool after leaving Manchester United RTC. A technical midfielder who likes scoring goals.
Casey Stoney said: “I’m really glad we have been able to bring Katie back. Katie is a great player and fantastic character to have in the squad. Now we want her to reach her potential.”
Charlie Devlin (Millwall Lionesses)
A youth international who has previously played for Arsenal and Millwall. A technically-gifted midfielder with the ability to link the play.
Casey Stoney said: “Charlie is a fantastic character and has lots of potential. At only 20 I can’t wait to see what she can achieve. A technical midfielder who can influence games.”
Lauren James (Arsenal)
At 16 Lauren is the youngest member of the squad. A technically very gifted midfielder with great passing ability.
Casey Stoney said: “Lauren has the potential to do whatever she wants to do with hard work. She is technically very gifted and also the baby of our squad. A great addition from Arsenal.”
Lizzie Arnot (Hibernian)
Scottish international who is great with the ball at her feet. Can run all day and is great in 1 v 1 situations.
Casey Stoney said: “Lizzie’s energy and enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Her ability on the wing to get at the opposition will be very entertaining and exciting to watch.”
Millie Turner (Bristol City)
Youth international with great technical ability. Millie signs from Bristol where she was captain. A great player and a fantastic character.
Casey Stoney said: “The signing of Millie Turner was a big one for us. She has great ability on the ball and she can defend very well which will complement our style of play.”
Ella Toone (Man City)
A young exciting winger signed from Manchester City. A youth international with plenty of talent and potential.
Casey Stoney said: “Ella is a great addition to the team and can play anywhere in attacking areas. She is an exciting dynamic winger and will add to our positive attacking philosophy.”
Jess Sigsworth (Doncaster Rovers Belles)
An England youth international and also top scorer in WSL last season. Jess is quick, direct and has a great eye for goal.
Casey Stoney said: “Jess Sigsworth knows nothing but the goal. An unbelievable eye for goal and an attitude and drive to succeed. Jess will add goals this season.”
Leah Galton (Bayern Munich)
Leah is a direct wide player with a great left foot. A former England youth international who has signed from previous club Bayern Munich.
Casey Stoney said: “Left footers are rare and good ones even more so and having Leah gives us really good balance and the opportunity to attack quickly both sides. Extremely hard working and driven to take Manchester United to the next level”.
Kirsty Hanson. (Doncaster Rovers Belles)
Scottish youth international signed from Doncaster after winning the WSL 2 last season. An exciting and quick wide player who can play on either wing.
Casey Stoney said: “I am delighted we got the signature of Kirsty. With the way we want to play most defenders will struggle to deal with her ability to go 1 v 1 and her pace.”
Ebony Salmon (Aston Villa)
England youth international with an abundance of pace. Signed from Aston Villa and at only 17 has a very exciting future.
Casey Stoney said: “I was delighted to sign such a young exciting forward with so much potential. Ebony has deadly pace and the ability to finish. I’m excited to see what she can achieve.”