New Signings And An Old Rivalry: Alessia Russo’s Homecoming Ignites A Sell-Out As Manchester United Take On Arsenal
Former Manchester United striker Alessia Russo faces the Red Devils for the first time since her summer move to Arsenal.
Manchester United are set to host the Gunners at a sold-out Leigh Sports Village this Friday as they kick off the second week of the Women’s Super League.
Russo, who had been part of Manchester United since 2020, made a shocking move to Arsenal when her three-year contract with the Red Devils ended in June.
Her transfer to Arsenal garnered global attention as the North London club was denied a record-breaking bid of £500,000 during the January transfer window. Six months after her contract expired with United, she signed as a free agent.
The 24-year-old is anticipated to be in the starting line-up against her former club and teammates, or at least some of them, seeing as United decided to change their entire squad in the final days of the transfer window.
She scored crucial goals as the Red Devils’ match-winner in their previous two encounters. The question now looms: will she replicate her heroics for Arsenal in this weekend’s fixture?
A look ahead into Friday’s match proves to be an interesting one.
A notable return is on the horizon as Arsenal and England attacker Beth Mead is set to make her long-awaited comeback.
Her recovery comes after a season-ending ACL injury last November which also ruled her out of contention for the FIFA World Cup. Mead’s return to action adds a hopeful and promising dimension to Arsenal’s squad.
“I’m starting to feel good now, I’m starting to feel sharper and ultimately I just need match minutes, but so far, so good. I’m feeling great right now, but I’ll have to let you all know how I’m feeling after my first game back.” Mead said in an update on her recovery and mentality.
For Arsenal, Leah Williamson, who was just presented with OBE, Vivianne Miedema, Laura Wienroither, and Teyah Goldie remain unavailable for selection due to their ACL injuries. Manchester United will miss Aoife Mannion and Emma Watson due to injury.
Several standout players demand our attention in this upcoming match-up.
Katie McCabe, a versatile talent from Arsenal, has consistently impressed in various roles across defence and midfield.
At just 28, she captained the Republic of Ireland during their historic debut at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. McCabe will forever be etched in the annals of history, not only for leading her national team but also for scoring Ireland’s inaugural goal in a manner as spectacular as an Olimpico.
Australian sensation Caitlin Foord shone brightly as one of Arsenal’s star performers last season. With 12 goals and nine assists across all competitions, Foord is set for an intriguing battle against Manchester United’s left-back Hannah Blundell promising an electrifying contest on the wings.
On Marc Skinner’s side, United also underwent a significant squad transformation during the summer transfer window. The most notable departure was right-back and FIFA World Cup winner Ona Batlle who made a move to FC Barcelona.
After the departure of Russo, Manchester United secured Geyse from UEFA Champions League champions FC Barcelona. The 25-year-old Brazilian offers a wealth of experience, particularly in crucial Champions League campaigns, something United undoubtedly hope to reap the benefits of in their frontline.
Nevertheless, with a considerable influx of new talent, United has successfully assembled a squad with the potential to make a comeback this season and take home the trophy.
Both clubs have emerged as two of the most financially active teams during the recent transfer window. Manchester United, in particular, invested a substantial £625,000 across eight significant transfers. Meanwhile, Arsenal are not far behind, spending a total of £520,000 across five high-profile signings.
The influx of these new talents has the potential to create a competitive atmosphere within both squads. Top-tier players now find themselves vying for coveted starting positions with others, possibly leading to a scenario where some of the WSL’s most outstanding talents may find themselves relegated to the bench.
After a breakthrough season that saw them secure a top-two finish since their promotion to the WSL in 2019, the Red Devils displayed an almost unbeaten record last year with only two defeats against Chelsea, the eventual champions.
Continuing their difficult fixtures this week, United make their UEFA Women’s Champions League debut next Tuesday as they host two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain.
Even after not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League themselves, the Gunners look to focus on domestic competitions and defend their title as Continental Cup winners after beating Chelsea 3-1 in the final.
Last weekend, United started strong with a late 2-1 win against Aston Villa while Arsenal fell to Liverpool 1-0.
As Manchester United and Arsenal look to build on their previous season’s success, this match is a crucial early-season test for both teams as it could be a defining moment in this WSL season.
The contrasting results from their opening fixtures last weekend only add to the intrigue. With a sold-out crowd eagerly anticipating this showdown, all eyes will be on Leigh Sports Village as these clubs fight for a win in the second week of the WSL.
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