Man Utd Women 2021/22 season review: Top scorers, assists & player of the year

Man Utd's 2021/22 season featured both positives & negatives
Man Utd's 2021/22 season featured both positives & negatives / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Manchester United can look back on their 2021/22 season with mixed emotions, having narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification again but also seeing reasons to be positive for the future under the guidance of manager Marc Skinner just one year into the job.

The departure of former boss Casey Stoney and several important and/or experienced players at the end of last season left United in a difficult position. The challenge was made harder in the following two months without a replacement and limited time for Skinner to prepare once he did arrive.

But United clearly improved as the season progressed, with both Skinner and a number of players winning individual monthly awards throughout to highlight their impressive level within the WSL.

Man Utd Women 2021/22 player of the season

Ella Toone

Having seen five attacking players and plenty of experience leave United last summer, Ella Toone had to quickly step up into a senior role in 2021/22 and absolutely thrived.

Toone began the campaign a 'false nine' and also played wide before settling into a role as the club's chief creative spark as a 'number 10'. She reached the 100 appearances milestone, the first United player to get to that number, and also became an England regular thanks to her club form.

No player recorded more WSL assists than Toone did in 2021/22, matching Arsenal duo Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead with eight in the competition.

Honourable mentions: Alessia Russo, Mary Earps, Ona Batlle

Man Utd Women 2021/22 goal of the season

Ona Battle vs Reading

United's goal of the season should have been the one that never was: Ona Batlle's piledriver against Reading that came down off the crossbar and clearly over the line before bouncing clear. But the referee and other officials somehow missed it.

Of those that actually counted, Batlle's goal against Reading way back on the opening night of the season was pretty special. The Spaniard cut in from the left, exchanging passes with Ella Toone and then floated the ball into the top corner to double United's lead and secure a first win for Skinner.

Honourable mentions: Katie Zelem vs Man City, Leicester & Leicester

Man Utd Women 2021/22 performance of the season

Arsenal 0-1 Man Utd

United booked a place in the semi-finals of the Continental Cup when they outplayed Arsenal in January to beat the Gunners for only the second time ever and the first away from home.

It was a rotated United side and a strong Arsenal lineup that featured the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead, Kim Little and Katie McCabe from the start. Yet it was the visitors from Manchester who created more chances and eventually made the decisive breakthrough through Alessia Russo.

Honourable mentions: Man Utd 2-1 Man City, Man Utd 3-1 Everton, Man Utd 5-0 Aston Villa

Man Utd Women 2021/22 signing of the season

Hannah Blundell

United fans had big hopes for midfielder Vilde Boe Risa following her summer arrival, but the Norwegian didn't start as many games as she or supporters would have hoped and therefore showed only flashes of her best in her debut season in England.

But it was full-back Hannah Blundell whose arrival proved to be a stroke of genius, playing more than anyone in a United shirt over the course of the campaign.

Blundell joined the club as part of the deal that took Lauren James to Chelsea but was an instant hit, bringing balance to the back four and providing a top class attacking threat on the left flank to match that of fellow full-back Ona Batlle on the opposite side.

Honourable mentions: Aoife Mannion, Martha Thomas

Man Utd Women 2021/22 most improved player

Alessia Russo

Long-term injury had limited Alessia Russo to only a handful of appearances in her first season as a United player in 2020/21 and caution was exercised at the start of 2021/22 in terms of easing her back into action - early substitute appearances frustrated her because she was so keen to play.

But once Russo, still only 23, did get a run of games, her talent shone through and she proved to be basically undroppable. Her all-round ability was clear to see, bringing not only goals but assists and build up play as she built strong on-field relationships with United's other vibrant forwards. She even bossed the landmark game at Old Trafford against Everton, scoring twice.

Skinner was repeatedly adamant throughout the season that Russo's best is still to come.

Honourable mentions: Ella Toone, Mary Earps

Man Utd Women 2021/22 disappointment of the season

Finishing 4th in the WSL (again)

For the second season in a row, United narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Women's Champions League due to slipping out of the WSL top three in the closing stages of the campaign.

Getting into Europe remains the club's immediate ambition and they were so close. Manchester City ultimately leapfrogged United into third place in the final week to finish five points clear and the difference lay in how many points Skinner's team dropped from winning positions.

United saw 10 points go begging as a result of late equalisers in the final 15 minutes of games over the course of the season, plus another two from failing to break down Aston Villa in a 0-0 draw. Holding onto 1-0 leads against Tottenham, Everton and West Ham would have seen them stay ahead, while they also lost leads late on against City and Arsenal, both of whom only had players.

United had arguably overachieved to be in contention for the top three until the very end given the challenging circumstances of Skinner's delayed arrival in late summer, the knock-on for recruitment, a lack of preparation and implementing a new style. But the margins were so small in isolated moments and the disappointment comes from the fact it was in United's grasp for so long.

Looking ahead, more experience in key moments is going to be vital, as well as adding a level of squad depth that was obviously missing in 2021/22.

Man Utd Women 2021/22 most appearances

  • Hannah Blundell - 30 (22 WSL, 2 FA Cup, 6 Continental Cup)
  • Alessia Russo - 30 (22 WSL, 2 FA Cup, 6 Continental Cup)
  • Katie Zelem - 29 (22 WSL, 2 FA Cup, 5 Continental Cup)
  • Ella Toone - 29 (22 WSL, 2 FA Cup, 5 Continental Cup)
  • Leah Galton - 28 (21 WSL, 1 FA Cup, 6 Continental Cup)

Man Utd Women 2021/22 top scorers

  • Alessia Russo - 11 (9 WSL, 2 Continental Cup)
  • Ella Toone - 9 (7 WSL, 1 FA Cup, 1 Continental Cup)
  • Leah Galton - 8 (8 WSL)
  • Katie Zelem - 7 (5 WSL, 1 FA Cup, 1 Continental Cup)
  • Martha Thomas - 6 (5 WSL, 1 Continental Cup)

Man Utd Women 2021/22 top assisters

  • Ella Toone - 8 (8 WSL)
  • Katie Zelem - 7 (5 WSL, 2 Continental Cup)
  • Hannah Blundell - 5 (5 WSL)
  • Alessia Russo - 5 (4 WSL, 1 FA Cup
  • Leah Galton - 4 (3 WSL, 1 Continental Cup)

Man Utd Women 2021/22 record in all competitions

  • WSL - P22, W12, D6, L4, GF 45, GA 22, GD +23, Pts 42, Position 4th
  • FA Cup - P2, W1, L1, GF 3, GA 4, Fifth round
  • Continental Cup - P6, W3, D2, L1, GF 10, GA 8, Semi-finals

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