Manchester United will compete in the AMOS Women’s French Cup as part of their pre-season preparations for the 2022/23 campaign, offering an important challenge for a squad with ambitions of competing in the Champions League sooner rather than later.
The other clubs in the August tournament, which is hosted in Toulouse over three days from 16-19, are Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. It is grand opposition to say the least.
United have been drawn against PSG in their semi-final, and if successful would then face either Barcelona or Bayern in the final three days later.
It is a level of elite international clubs that United have not faced in their short history. In 2019, Casey Stoney’s squad had a short pre-season trip to Norway, but travel concerns have seen both pre-season schedules since then limited to UK opposition and minimal real challenge.
By heading to France in August, a United side that hopes to have added players in the transfer market in targeted key positions are testing themselves like never before, with manager Marc Skinner referring to it as the ‘perfect preparation’.
If they want to realise their ambitions, United have no choice but to be well versed in playing against the best of the best. It may be slightly different in a pre-season context than it would be in the Champions League for real, but the basics still very much apply.
“The opportunity to face elite European opposition, in an excellent environment, will stand the team in great stead ahead of the start of our Women’s Super League campaign,” Skinner added.
The Women’s French Cup is less than three weeks after the Euro 2022 final, which could impact the availability of certain players for all clubs involved. That being said, since the end of the 2021/22 WSL season, United players have already had chance to holiday and take at least a short break.
Should the likes of England trio Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Mary Earps, for example, be involved until the final stages of Euro 2022, it might only require another relatively short break before returning to club duty and pre-season training.
United will no doubt go into the pre-season tournament as significant underdogs for that semi-final against PSG given their understandable lack of pedigree at the very highest level. But the chance to experience playing against world class opposition will be invaluable.
Skinner's team are already on the cusp of being able to compete with the 'big three' in the WSL. With good recruitment to add depth and if United can learn something from pre-season that can help in the WSL for real, it will have been worth it.