Manchester United have announced that they have applied to have a professional women’s team and hope to join the FA Women’s Championship next season.
United have come under intense criticism over the last few years, as the footballing giants have been without a women’s team since it was scrapped back in 2005.
Phil Neville, the England women national team coach and former Red Devils defender, stated in January that he would be “urging” his former team to consider joining the league.
In addition, Neville also said: “They [United] have a fantastic community programme for female players and coaches. When they do set out their women’s team it will be one to challenge City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. A club of the size of United should be the leaders, the pioneers. I am sure they are working to do that.”
The decision to apply coincides with the upcoming rebranding of the women’s league ahead of next season, with the WSL1 now to be named the Women’s Super League and WSL2 will now be known as the Women’s Championship.
There was an initial application phase where clubs who are already part of the league could apply for their place, followed by a second phase which was opened up for external girls and women’s clubs to apply for a spot in the league.
Manchester United are one of fifteen clubs who have applied for the nine spots that are available in the league, with each team’s applications now being reviewed by the FA.
Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, said: “We are pleased to announce that the club intends to establish its first ever professional women’s team and has submitted an application to enter WSL2.
“The FA has provided excellent support through the process and we believe that launching a team in WSL2 would give many more of our graduates from the regional talent club the chance to establish themselves as first team players.
“The Manchester United women’s team must be built in the same image and with the same principles as the men’s first team and offer academy players a clear route to top-level football within the club.”
Despite the club not currently having a women’s team, they have still been playing a big part in developing young girls in junior age groups, as they work alongside local schools and community groups through the Manchester United Foundation.
United have also been working in partnership with South Manchester Girls’ Football League since 2016, and they claim to have already seen a 41% rise in participation levels.
Two seasons ago, United’s Under-16 team made the FA Youth Cup final. The club says that in their ranks, they have 15 players involved in the international set-up, with 12 from England and three from Scotland.
United will now need to appoint a team of staff and also form a squad of players, with trials believed to be scheduled for June. If the club is accepted into the league, then the women’s side would be based at the Cliff training ground in Salford, where the men’s team used to train.
It is surely a formality that the Red Devils application will be accepted by the FA panel, with their addition sure to provide a huge boost to the rapidly developing women’s league.