Manchester United Women marked their historic day at Old Trafford with a major win over West Ham as they continue to pursue their Champions League spot next season.
This was the first match for women at the Theater of Dreams since the team’s launch in 2018 and goals from Lauren James and Christen Press in the second half made for a memorable occasion.
United were one of the few clubs that hadn’t played a game on the men’s field, with Stoney insisting they wanted to sell their home in Leigh Sports Village first.
Lauren James became the first female Man United player to score at the Theater of Dreams
James headed the opener four minutes into the second half after a scoreless first half
Attacker Christen Press then doubled United’s lead with an emphatic finish on Saturday
Press (right) is harassed by her United teammates after doubling their lead over Old Trafford
Manchester United (4-3-2-1): Earps, Thorisdottir, A Turner, M Turner, Battle (Harris 73), Zelem (Ladd 64), Greens, James (Ross 83), Staniforth (Hanson 64), Toone, Press (Sigsworth 83)
Subs not used: Bentley, Smith, Jones, Bourne
Booked: A Turner, Battle, Sigsworth, Ladd
Scorers: James 49, press 55
West Ham (3-4-2-1): Brosnan, Redisch (Barker), Flaherty, Fisk, Vetterlein, Longhurst, Brynjarsdottir (Cissoko 83), Van Egmond, Svitkova, Dali (Mustafa 87), Thomas (Pacheco 77)
Subs not used: Ramsey, Denton
Referee: Lisa Benn
Since that’s not currently possible due to games taking place behind closed doors, Stoney said she decided to take the opportunity to play at Old Trafford, partly because she was ‘fed up with the questions’, but also to lift her players .
The Red Devils entered the game after a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal last week, a result that meant they no longer have the Champions League qualification in their hands.
United were realistic title contenders until February, before losing eight points in four games to Chelsea and six to Manchester City after three defeats in four games.
Injuries from Leah Galton and Tobin Heath, their second and third top scorers, have not helped their cause.
They faced a West Ham squad in the heat of a relegation battle and no win in the league under Oli Harder, who took over from Matt Beard in December.
Unsurprisingly, it was the home side that dominated possession in the first half, but they were unable to create a real chance of success.
Press had the best chance of beating James just before half time, but her cross was well cut by Grace Fisk. The five defenders of West Hamham held their own, while United managed to make only one shot on goal before half time.
“We weren’t good in the first half, that’s probably the worst I’ve seen us,” Stoney said.
The Hammers were later reduced to 10 players after defender Laura Vetterlein was sent off
It was a day to enjoy for Casey Stoney’s side as they enjoyed their first taste of Old Trafford action
“I probably can’t repeat what I said at half time, but I said” if you want to qualify for the Champions League, you have to play at Champions League standard. ”
‘We were sloppy, slow, we played for ourselves instead of playing for the team and making bad decisions. If there had been a crowd here they would have been disappointed. ‘
Stoney needed a response from her players in the second half and after 48 minutes she got one. A United corner was swung to the back post with Maria Thorisdottir on her way to James to nod in from two meters away.
This was only the second game James had started this season after several injury problems, but the England midfielder showed how important she will be in the run-up to the end of the season.
It was soon 2-0 when Press only scored her third goal of the season in the 55th minute. The American had summed up United’s frustrations in the first half, taking heavy touches and contemplating her final pass. wash her.
An excellent pass from Jackie Groenen played Press through on goal and she produced a clinical finish to get over the onrushing Courtney Brosnan.
Press was inches away from scoring 3-0 moments later, her curling attempt towards the top corner before Brosnan tipped over.
The women’s side of United is hoping for even more memorable days at Old Trafford
United goalkeeper Mary Earps had been a spectator for most of the afternoon, but she had to be careful not to deny Dagny Brynsdottir twice just after the hour, first saving with her feet before lifting a header down the post.
That was the best the visitors managed to book and it got worse when Laura Vetterlein was later sent off in half for a second bookable offense.
For United, however, it was a day to remember and a much-needed victory. The only disappointing comment was that it took place in the absence of supporters, but Stoney is confident they will have another chance to play at the Theater of Dreams next season.
‘The club offered this to us, I took it. If we take one next season, it sure will be with a crowd, ‘Stoney added. ‘I still haven’t changed my mind about wanting to consistently get busy in Leigh, but to have a practice game here where we can do well for the fans would be great’.
Ella Toone shoots for goal as the hosts dominated the early proceedings against the Hammers
Despite the historic day in Manchester and in the absence of football this weekend, the match was not selected for television to the frustration of United.
Club officials were stunned after their plans to broadcast Saturday’s game to the widest possible audience hit a bureaucratic brick wall.
The club announced the symbolic move from their usual location in Leigh Sports Village after broadcasters BT Sport and the BBC made their choice.
However, they expected some flexibility from the channels, which was not available.
Instead, the only place to watch the game was through the FA Player or on BT Sport was through the red button.
Sportsmail unveiled on Friday that United, at their own expense, had paid for multiple cameras and an outside broadcast team for the game, as the FA player only uses one. They were concerned that a single camera operation would devalue the event.
Both sets of players take the knee ahead of the kickoff of what was a momentous occasion
United women usually play their home games at Leigh Sports Village
Taking that goodwill gesture into account, United also asked the FA if they could screen the match for free on MUTV – meaning hundreds of thousands of people could tune in to watch the sport’s milestone.
However, that suggestion was answered with an outright refusal, which subsequently caused much confusion.
The rules stipulate that clubs can broadcast a maximum of three matches on their own channels and United has already done so. Despite their request, no exception had been made. United declined to comment, but insiders said they were “surprised” at an alleged lack of cooperation.
“This is an ideal missed opportunity,” they explained.
“This is the biggest club in the country to make a statement on a weekend that there is no Premier League or championship football and we are letting the opportunity pass to get as many eyes as possible.”
Ella Toone is warming up to United ahead of kick-off in Manchester at the weekend
Jackie Groenen shoots on goal during United’s warm-up at Old Trafford during the weekend