United Women have brought in three players ahead of the start of the new Women’s Super League season but the pandemic made negotiating harder
Casey Stoney admitted it has been a difficult transfer window for Manchester United as the global pandemic has affected the normal recruitment process.
Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has warned about the financial impact the pandemic has had on the club but despite some uncertainty earlier in lockdown, Stoney has been given the funds she needed to bring in three new players.
Ivana Fuso, Ona Batlle and Lucy Staniforth have all signed, and other additions haven’t been ruled out before the window closes next month. And while Stoney is very happy with the business they have concluded, she said it has been more challenging then usual.
“We obviously set out with a list of targets that we really keep a close eye on throughout the year – to say we got all of them would be lying, we haven’t, but that’s not due to finance that’s down to player preference,” Stoney said.
“They might not want to move countries for example, so it depends on who you’ve gone after. The three we’ve gone after, we definitely really wanted, and they were a key part of our recruitment process.
“It’s been difficult in terms of not being able to have the players over. We couldn’t meet them and bring them around the club, it’s not been easy. Budgets as well were uncertain for a while right in the middle of Covid, but I think we went out and got what we wanted.”
The three new recruits have settled into the squad well and have impressed the manager as they prepare for their opening game of the new WSL season against Chelsea in two weeks’ time.
It’s another tough opener for United, having kicked off last season against reigning champions Manchester City, and Stoney outlined exactly what she is looking for from her squad.
“To move into top three we need to be more consistent,” she explained. “We dropped points against teams we shouldn’t have dropped points against if we want to get in there. We need to win more and get more clean sheets. We need a higher win ratio, more clean sheets and to do that we have got to develop our players and develop our team.”
While last season’s opener was played in front of record crowds, this fixture – being held at Leigh Sports Village – will be behind closed doors due to government-enforced pandemic restrictions.
The growth in the women’s game over the past 10 years has been emphatic, but with no games for fans to attend there is a concern that it could drop off again.
While gate receipts aren’t a large stream of income, unlike in the men’s game, the issue is that the visibility of the game may diminish and Stoney has called on the FA to do more to continue to raise the profile of the game.
“We have to raise our visibility in other ways, we have to get it on platforms. We’ve got MUTV, so let us use it more, we have to have more games on BT and maybe get the BBC involved,” Stoney said.
“Visibility is absolutely massive for the women’s game, if we don’t get that the women’s game could go in the background, and that’s not what we want.”