How Man Utd women signings sold more shirts than the men
The arrivals of USWNT World Cup winners Tobin Heath and Christen Press got fans of the newly formed Manchester United women’s team excited.
If ever we needed an instance that could defy the notion that women’s sport cannot be marketed, this was it. The double signings of Tobin Heath and Christen Press created an instant impact off the field for Manchester United. Mike Keegan first revealed that shirt sales with the names of two USWNT stars surpassed that of the men for the first three days after they signed.
Manchester United are one of the more popular clubs in world football. They’ve established a global appeal off the back of their men’s team winning run in the 1990s and 2000s. The men’s team has won a record 13 Premier League titles. However, the women’s team was established only in 2018.
Manchester United Women finished 4th in the 2019-20 WSL – their first in the top-tier. Signing two World Cup winners seemed like a coup for the Red Devils, considering the financial stimulus it gave the club in a distressed economy.
Heath took the number 77 shirt on joining while Press wears the number 24 at United. Heath and Press both arrived in Manchester on one-year loan deals from National Women’s Super League [NWSL] clubs in the USA.
United women boss Casey Stoney knew that signing two world class players would provide an impetus to challenge Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal for Champions League places.
She hailed the decision, claiming that the duo would “bring a winning mentality” to a squad gunning for their first WSL title.
The Man United magnitude
Casey Stoney, a former England captain was in the fray to take over from Phil Neville as Team Great Britain coach for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She has since distanced herself from the job and restated her commitment to Manchester United women.
Tobin Heath was drawn to the club because of its popularity.
“For me it was massive there was interest from Manchester United.
To sign for such a club was important to me in my football career.
“Manchester United is like the American team in the Premier League, and everyone knows the weight of it back home,” she said. “It is so exciting for me to wear a badge that is well known.”
Press told ESPN that qualifying for the Women’s Champions League [UWCL] would be the equivalent of a title for a young club like United women.
Distraction from the mess
Adding Press and Heath to Manchester United was a positive step for a young club. But it may not have done enough to alleviate the backlash that the boardroom has faced for their approach to the summer transfer window. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had set his sights on Jadon Sancho and Dayot Upamecano. Unfortunately, he never found adequate support to pursue those deals.
Hashtags like #GlazersOut and #WoodwardOut have become regular trends in the transfer window. The frustration of fans could be felt across social media but the owners and executive chairman have consistently turned a deaf ear to their cries.
They belatedly acted on transfer deadline day and signed four players. Young English midfielder Alessia Russo also signed on deadline day, becoming United women’s fourth signing of the season.
Five USWNT stars headed towards the WSL in the 2020 summer transfer window. Footballers were in search of playing time and the new season in England had started by September. Professionals in the USA found it worthwhile to travel across the Atlantic Ocean on short-term deals.
Manchester City started the trend with the signings of Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle. United made the ‘statement signings’ of Tobin Heath and Christen Press. Perhaps the most surprising of them all was Tottenham Hotspur convincing Alex Morgan to sign up.
Alex Morgan, the co-captain of the United States Women’s National Team recently returned to football after giving birth. According to Forbes, she is the richest female footballer in the world with her net worth estimated at $4.6 million. Morgan scored six goals in USWNT’s World Cup triumph in France last year. The most crucial of those was the goal which put her team 2-1 up in the semi-final against England. She drew the ire of opposition fans with her tea-sipping celebration, which many speculate was mocking English culture. She will hope that her performances on the pitch endear her to the supporters in London.