Kelly Smith: Man Utd Women's rise under Casey Stoney comes as no surprise

Manchester United Women’s rapid rise under Casey Stoney comes as no surprise, says former England and Arsenal forward Kelly Smith.

Stoney’s side stormed to victory in their inaugural Women’s Championship season, winning the league by nine points, and finished fourth on their Women’s Super League debut last term, albeit curtailed.

United go into the highly-anticipated Manchester derby against Man City, part of the women’s football weekend derby triple bill, on top of the WSL having beaten perennial contenders Arsenal last weekend.

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Smith, a three-time WSL winner with Arsenal, says she expected Stoney and Manchester United Women to disrupt Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City’s dominance of the division.

“I’m not surprised with how well Casey Stoney has done, I know she is a winner mentally and she has always wanted to be a manager, she is a student of the game,” Smith told Sky Sports News.


“They have resources to bring top players in, it’s taken a little amount of time to get the team playing as well as they are.

“Beating Arsenal [last week], I thought they were the better side, they played attractive football and were good defensively. Casey was a centre-half so she knows how to defend against attacking sides like Arsenal.

“And she managed to bring in two top internationals in Christen Press and Tobin Heath to get them goals, I’m not surprised at all. I can’t wait to watch the Manchester Derby, I think it is going to be a good, close game. United might have the edge coming off this Arsenal win.”

Arsenal have the opportunity to bounce back against defending WSL champions Chelsea this weekend. Former striker Smith says Joe Montemurro’s players will be out with a point to prove.

“It’s a massive game and has been for a number of years. I remember playing in it, it was always a feisty, cagey affair with tackles flying in.

“Chelsea are unbeaten in 26 games so they are flying at the minute and Arsenal have come off a loss, they will be wanting to prove a point.”

Who will take Manchester derby bragging rights?

It is fair to say that United have had a pretty meteoric rise since their reformation in the 2018/19 season. Casey Stoney’s side stormed to victory in their inaugural Women’s Championship season, winning the league by nine points, and finished fourth on their WSL debut last term, albeit curtailed.

But the coronavirus pandemic can’t stop them this time. United went top of the WSL on Sunday, beating and subsequently leapfrogging Arsenal to the No 1 spot. It was the Gunners’ first league defeat this season thanks to Ella Toone’s goal, keeping Stoney’s side unbeaten.

City have had a trickier start to the season after the agony of losing out on the WSL title last season. They were top when the coronavirus pandemic halted the league and was eventually decided on a points-per-game basis, handing Chelsea a third WSL title. City had to settle for the runners-up spot for a third season in a row.

A 3-1 defeat to Chelsea plus two draws sees them in fifth and five points off leaders United, but Gareth Taylor’s side thrashed Bristol City 8-1 on Saturday to reignite their pursuit of a first WSL title since 2016.

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