Wednesday, January 19

Manchester United’s Ella Toone: ‘The last year has been amazing and overwhelming’ | Manchester United Women

TOBy the end of 2021, Manchester United’s Ella Toone had marked a few things on her to-do list: her club’s top scorer in the 2020-21 season and leader at the midpoint of last season, an England senior team. . debut, an England hat-trick, a first senior international tournament with Team GB at the Olympics and Barclays’ December Player of the Month in the Women’s Super League.

She has a big smile when she says it was the “perfect ending to an amazing year for me personally.”

It all feels quite surreal, with a list of accomplishments that “I would have bit your arm” for in early 2021. “I have achieved dreams that I set for myself as a child,” she says. “It has been incredible and overwhelming. I am very proud and I want to keep trying to achieve as many dreams as I can, keep working hard, keep learning and trying to be the best version of myself ”.

United ended last season with the resignation of Casey Stoney as manager and the departure of American duo Christen Press and Tobin Heath and young star Lauren James, so this campaign was never going to be easy. New faces arrived, like former Birmingham coach Marc Skinner of Orlando Pride, and United struggled to find the rhythm that kept them undefeated and on top at Christmas last season. Ahead of last month’s winter break, United were fourth, two points behind third-place Tottenham, having drawn three times and lost two. They remain there before Saturday’s home game against Birmingham.

However, the backwards start has taught the team a lot, says 22-year-old Toone. “As much as you hate losing, we’ve learned a lot from those games,” she says. “Even the games that we have drawn, which we probably shouldn’t have drawn, we have learned a lot.”

Ella Toone during Manchester United's League Cup win over Everton last month, the second of three consecutive victories.
Ella Toone during Manchester United’s League Cup win over Everton last month, the second of three consecutive victories. Photograph: John Peters / Manchester United / Getty Images

United have recorded three straight wins, against Brighton in the league, Everton in the League Cup and Aston Villa in the league, for the first time this season and there are signs the team is starting to get acquainted with the way Skinner wants to. play.

“The main thing for us was believing in each other and believing in ourselves,” says Toone. “We finished the year very strong. We clicked towards the end of the year and put on some really great performances and now it’s about building on from that. It will always take time when a new manager comes up with different ideas. It was about all of us having an open mind and believing in what he wanted from us. “

Born in Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, Toone has enjoyed working with Skinner. “He has a lot of great ideas and he’s very positive on the pitch and I think I’ve learned a lot from him. He just wants the best from each individual player, which has been great for me. I’ve had a lot of one-on-one time with him … I think it’s been a big part of why I’ve been playing well, scoring and assisting. “

Ella Toone beats two Latvian defenders during World Cup qualifier in November.
Ella Toone beats two Latvian defenders during World Cup qualifier in November. Photograph: Naomi Baker / The FA / Getty Images

Toone, used in midfield and beyond, sets a lot of goals for himself, but at the start of the season Skinner’s instructions were simple: “Play freely, consistently and get goals and assists,” he says. “I think I’ve managed to do that and I just want to keep my foot on the gas and keep helping the team.”

Having made his England debut in February, coming in and scoring a penalty in a 6-0 loss to Northern Ireland, Toone has six goals in eight international matches, including a hat-trick in a 10-0 win against Latvia. Its club form meant it was named as one of four reserves for the Olympics that were upgraded to full players when team sizes were increased due to Covid.

“It was a strange experience because of Covid,” she says. “But being a part of that was amazing and it made me so much hungrier to be back at a major tournament representing England or Great Britain.”

Ella Toone with her Player of the Month award.
Ella Toone with her Player of the Month award. Photograph: Tom Purslow / Manchester United / Getty Images

It also made a spot on England’s team for Euro this summer feel a bit more achievable. “It was always a goal,” he says, “just because you have to set goals and you have to push towards something. I have tried to go there and just believe in myself and learn all that I can and show who I am. Obviously it is a dream and it would be stupid to say that it is not, because it is the European Championship at home and it will be a great occasion for the country and for women’s football ”.

There is an added incentive with the England opener at Old Trafford. Toone is a huge Manchester United fan, thanks to her playing with her United supportive cousin, and her father, who supports Bolton, would take her to Old Trafford as a child. He joined United’s regional talent club before moving to Blackburn and then Manchester City because United did not have a senior team. Stoney brought her back in 2018.

“As soon as United said there was a women’s team, I just wanted to go home and I enjoyed every minute since then,” she says. “It’s what makes me most proud to wear this shirt and badge. Obviously, growing up doing sports at the club is huge. I come to train every day and I am in the club that I support. You just want to work as hard as you can for the badge and the girls around you.

“I am also very happy for the girls in the academy who now have the opportunity to work hard and dream big. All I ever wanted to do was play professional football for Manchester United. “

Ella Toone is the December Barclays WSL Player of the Month. Read our interview with November’s Player of the Month, Jessie Fleming, here.

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