Marc Skinner’s Manchester United side lost to Chelsea by a hefty 6-1 scoreline.
It was the Red Devils’ worst league result since their promotion to the FA Women’s Super League in 2019.
Emma Hayes’s visitors conceded a sloppy goal via former Blue Alessia Russo, but were clinical when it mattered to comfortably secure three points against Manchester United. An early effort from Fran Kirby, a wonder-goal from Pernille Harder, a brace from Sam Kerr and the first WSL goals of the season for Jessie Fleming and Drew Spence broke Manchester United’s unbeaten streak.Embed from Getty Images
Marc Skinner shuffled the pack today, bringing in former Blue Maris Thorisdottir to replace Millie Turner. She was partnered with Aoife Mannion in front of Mary Earps, with another former Blue Hannah Blundell on the right-side, and Ona Batlle on the left.
Katie Zelem and Jackie Groenen started in the engine room, with the fluid front four of Leah Galton, Lucy Staniforth, Kirsty Hanson and Ella Toone trying to cause damage going forward.
Erin Cuthbert’s injury on international break forced the Champions into a change, as Niamh Charles stepped in for the Scot.
The only other change was Melanie Leupolz starting instead of Ji So-Yun. That meant Chelsea lined up with the now familiar defence of Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Magda Eriksson in front of Ann-Katrin Berger.
Sophie Ingle and Leupolz occupied the centre of midfield with Reiten and Charles out wide. This meant that Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr were left to do the damage upfront.
First goal to Chelsea
Manchester United had not conceded at Leigh Sports Village for some time, but with just three minutes on the clock, Fran Kirby’s opening goal left the Reds behind. In truth, they were lucky to have not already conceded. Earps had already made a save to deny Kerr, but when Blundell passed straight to Kerr under pressure, the Aussie squared for Fran Kirby to tap home. It was Kirby’s 50th WSL goal and a reminder of how potent their partnership is.
Next, Manchester United struggled to impose themselves on the ball, trying to take a physical route into the contest. Several half-chances came and went as they pushed for parity, however, Chelsea struck the second mid-way through the first half.Embed from Getty Images
This time, individual brilliance was the order of the day. Pernille Harder seized on a loose touch from Jackie Groenen to power through the pitch. Although both the Dutch midfielder and Norwegian defender Thorisdottir attempted to halt Harder, she still breezed through into the box. One-on-one with Earps, she deftly lobbed the ball into the net.
Chelsea threatened to run riot and nearly grabbed a third on the 40th minute mark. First, a deft passing move saw Kirby tee up captain Eriksson who volleyed over. Then the English winger played a delightful pass to Kerr who hit a first time effort fractionally wide.
However, United were once again architects of their own downfall. It was Zelem this time to be caught in possession by Kirby, who fed Sam Kerr to slot home a carbon-copy of the opening goal with roles reversed. A minute after Kerr’s previous attempt, it was 0-3 to Chelsea.
A cruise for the Blues going into half-time
In the second-half, Skinner chose to roll the dice, introducing former Chelsea youngster Alessia Russo as a substitute for Staniforth. The English forward had a near-instant impact. As Ella Toone played the ball in behind, she latched onto it and unleashed a cross-cum-shot that took a wicked deflection off Millie Bright, bouncing in off the post. Game on in the 48th minute?
Not quite. Chelsea surged forward from kick-off and were unlucky to not get a penalty as Kirby was bundled over by Mannion. However, she was able to deliver another perfect cross to Kerr minutes later to nonchalantly finish. The Aussie might have looked offside, but with no VAR to confirm, the goal was allowed.Embed from Getty Images
Facing a heavy scoreline, United did try and rally somewhat. Russo continued to impress in her cameo, beating three Chelsea players before rasping a strike against the crossbar that had Berger beaten. However, United struggled to test Chelsea’s stopper as the game meandered in the second half.
Meanwhile, the strength of Chelsea’s bench showed late in the game. Freshening up her selections, Emma Hayes called on Bethany England, Drew Spence, Jonna Andersson, Jessie Fleming and Jorja Fox. Between them, they had the positive impact she was hoping for.
In the 87th minute, Fleming’s precise pass to Beth England allowed the centre-forward to lay off perfectly for midfielder Spence. Although her first touch was poor, her finish wasn’t: a side-foot arrow into the far corner.
The final gloss on the scoreline came fin the second minute of stoppage time. England, Spence and Fleming broke through midfield, and after unselfishly setting up a shot for Spence, the rebound fell kindly for Fleming who showed brilliant composure to lift the ball delicately into the empty net.
Full Time: Manchester United 1-6 Chelsea
After a good start for new head-coach Marc Skinner, this was a painful lesson of the gap needed to bridge for United to compete for the WSL title. By contrast, overlooking their disappointing opening day defeat, Chelsea have now comprehensively dispatched two teams fancied as dark horses in the race. Emma Hayes’s side are not going to surrender their crown quietly.