If Casey Stoney leaves this weekend after her last game, Manchester United will have no shortage of applicants for her job.
But some of the reasons behind Stoney’s decision to quit will be of concern to anyone considering the position.
Stoney is unhappy with the support structure and facilities provided to the women’s team since making the temporary move to Carrington, the men’s training ground early this year.
Casey Stoney will step down as Manchester United’s women’s coach at the end of the season
There will be plenty of candidates from coaches who want to lead the women’s team next season
But Stoney’s frustration with United’s training base in Carrington will be worth acknowledging
Players were unable to shower between training and meals before installing makeshift portacabins, while the closest restrooms are a 10-minute walk from their training ground. Their gym is also in a tented facility, and upgrades promised by club and football director John Murtough have failed to materialize.
The club asked for a move from their usual base in Leigh as they kept getting injured in what they thought was bad places. But United sees things differently as the men’s U23s have used them.
The facilities in Leigh are amateur standard but believed to be better than in Carrington.
It’s a whole different story at Manchester City, which is based on the Etihad campus alongside the men’s and academy teams.
The United players feel let down by the way the club handles their presence at Carrington and are aware of the contrasting stories from around the city, where Pep Guardiola watches training and encourages togetherness.
United’s players feel let down by the way the club has treated them in Carrington
The women’s team felt frustrated with the quality of the resources they had to work with
There is also a frustration at the club’s reluctance to house them in Carrington full time with the right facilities. A source said Sportsmail that a move to Carrington is the “million dollar issue,” but that a permanent switch is not expected for at least another year, if not longer.
When United got their championship license in 2018, the club had said that Stoney’s squad would eventually be stationed at The Cliff, the men’s team’s former training ground, once the renovations were complete.
But the owners changed their mind about that decision, believing that The Cliff was not big enough for the women’s team and their age groups at the academy.
In a statement, United said: “ The nature of the pandemic has created unique challenges in football and across the club over the past year in terms of mandatory protocols around training and games.
These, in turn, have impacted the usual training locations and schedules for our women’s team at Leigh Sports Village in recent months.
The club has had to adapt to be as flexible as possible in using ATC and other arrangements and we recognize that this has sometimes had an impact on the women’s team.
‘We are working on a package of medium-term investments to expand and improve the facilities for the women’s team.
United said in a statement that the pandemic presented the club with some unique challenges
Long term Joel Glazer referred last week that the club will need to significantly increase investment in Old Trafford and our training complex to ensure that the facilities are some of the best in Europe.
“The long-term goal is a fully integrated approach to the training field with men’s team, women’s team and academy.”
United was heavily criticized for disbanding their women’s team in 2005 and it took them 13 years to relaunch a senior team. However, their progress over the past three years has been rapid with Stoney guiding the club to promotion in its first season in charge before finishing fourth back-to-back in the WSL.
But the former England captain insisted she saw this campaign as a ‘personal failure’ after United missed a Champions League spot despite being at the top of the table at Christmas.
Her team sustained a number of injuries to key players including Tobin Heath, Alessia Russo, Leah Galton and Lauren James. They found themselves unable to compete with the plow depths of Manchester City and Chelsea, who have already started recruiting for next season.
Stoney led the team to the Women’s Championship and promotion in the club’s first season
Stoney has labeled this season as ‘a personal failure’ as United missed the Champions League
Stoney appears to be heading to America with San Diego, who will enter the National Women’s Soccer League in 2022 as an expansion team, reportedly interested in hiring the 39-year-old.
Her last game in charge of United will be this weekend in the fifth round of the FA Cup with Leicester, who finished second tier champions this season. The Foxes train full-time on Belvoir Drive, the facility the men’s team left just before Christmas, and will try to set a marker ahead of their first top flight season.
United are in the process of recruiting a new head coach and have insisted they build on the legacy of Stoney’s accomplishments. If they want to find someone with the same status as their former boss, they will have to prove their commitment.