Man Utd knocked out of Conti Cup after ruling on ineligible Aston Villa player

  • Aston Villa fielded the cup-tied Noelle Maritz in their 7-0 win over Sunderland
  • An independent tribunal awards those three points to Sunderland who now top Group A
  • Villa progress as a runner-up, knocking out Manchester United who were level on points but behind on goal difference

Manchester United are knocked out of the Conti Cup amidst Aston VIlla controversy
Manchester United are knocked out of the Conti Cup amidst Aston VIlla controversy / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Manchester United have been knocked out of the Conti Cup as a consequence of Aston Villa fielding an ineligible player.

Noelle Maritz played for Villa as they stormed to a comprehensive 7-0 win over Sunderland, but the 28-year-old had already featured three times in the competition for Arsenal prior to her transfer, against Bristol City, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur.

An administrative error led to Carla Ward selecting Maritz to face Sunderland, but the decision to do so has now seen not only Villa punished but also United.

The Villans have been deducted three points after admitting the charge to an independent tribunal - they have still qualified for the quarter-finals - but United's punishment is far more significant. They have been eliminated from the competition entirely, with Marc Skinner's side now not one of the two best-placed runners up.

"The FA alleged that the player was ineligible for this game, as she had previously featured in the competition for her former club, which constitutes a breach of Cup Rule 8.19," a statement read in regards to the ruling.

"Aston Villa admitted this charge and acknowledged the breach had occurred. The independent tribunal ordered that the points deducted from Aston Villa be awarded to their opponents Sunderland, while the 7-0 scoreline is to be expunged from the record."

United quickly responded to the statement, expressing their bemusement at Villa's punishment being the reason for their elimination.

"We are very disappointed with this outcome, and do not understand its rationale," the club wrote in a statement. "We feel that it undermines the integrity of the competition, and of the women's game."

Villa now progress to the last eight as one of the two best-placed runners-up, having previously topped Group A ahead of Sunderland, and escape the punishment Reading sustained in 2013 after they fielded an ineligible player in the Conti Cup - the Royals were kicked out of the competition entirely.