A big move from one of the biggest clubs in the world. But what took them so long?
The year is 2018. Women’s football has been on a steady rise in Europe, boosted by two very popular international tournaments in the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the 2017 Women’s Euros; domestically, too, the quality of the competition has continued to improve, draw bigger crowds and garner more media attention.
And yet two of the biggest clubs in the world, Manchester United and Real Madrid, still don’t have women’s teams.
At least, Manchester United doesn’t yet. The club announced recently that they would be applying for a women’s team in the FA WSL 2, the second tier of women’s football, for next season. They’ve had a very successful Girls’ Regional Talent Club for some time, and now those women will be able to continue on to play for the club that’s been developing them.
However, it should be noted that Ed Woodward said the club was “establish[ing] its first ever professional women’s team,” despite the club having an “official relationship” with the formerly Manchester United Supporters Club Ladies from 2001 until Malcolm Glazer disbanded the side in 2005. It seems a little disingenuous to celebrate an accomplishment without acknowledging its history — especially if that history is your club’s previous owner saying a women’s team didn’t “benefit the core business.”
Luckily, it seems that attitudes have changed. “Better late than never” seems to be the most popular judgement of the situation, a fair one considering how far they are behind their big club — and, frankly, small club – counterparts. If Aston Villa and Watford can afford a women’s team, then surely Manchester United can.
It's generally not great when a club's decision is met with "finally" but in this case, better late to the party than standing outside in the cold. Welcome to women's football @ManUtd! You're now on the clock @realmadriden. https://t.co/epodHoqjq7
— Anthony DiCicco (@DiCiccoMethod) March 22, 2018
Was it peer pressure? Was it a burning resentment of Manchester City stealing yet another spotlight, with their incredible women’s team? Or was it just a general waking up to the fact that women can play football well, too?
Whatever it was, a team with Manchester United’s stature and money can really play ball if they set their mind (and budgets) to it. Let’s all look forward to the time when the women’s Manchester derby is as big as the men’s.