The worrying to-do list facing Marc Skinner at Manchester United Women
Manchester United Women launched back in 2018 full of ambition and promises for their investment and progress in the future - but after the departure of their highly-rated manager and many of their top stars, their new incoming boss has plenty to concern himself with when he arrives to take the hot-seat.
Former manager Casey Stoney departed amid rumours that she was fed up with the club's failure to communicate with the women's side of things, and the lack of top-class facilities for them.
That included accommodation, according to previous reports, which likened the players' housing to student flats.
It also included the training set-up; the women had been working at Leigh Sports Village but after a string of injuries were picked up during training sessions, the squad moved to Carrington - where the men train - but had to slot in around the men's schedules.
And it included clarity over the club's ambitions. Stoney's United team finished fourth last season, just outside the Champions League spots, the same as they achieved in their first WSL season, in the pandemic-truncated 2019/20.
The Manchester United Women squad celebrate winning the League with Manager Casey Stoney after the WSL match between Manchester United Women and Crystal Palace Women at Leigh Sports Village on April 20, 2019 in Leigh, Greater Manchester.
Image credit: Getty Images
Loss of players
The team have been without a manager for two months so it's perhaps no surprise that some of their stars have headed for the door, including midfield star Lauren James and strikers Jess Sigsworth and Jane Ross.
There have been plenty of other indications from behind the scenes that all is not well at United.
Last month, kit manufacturers Adidas captioned United player (and one of their own roster) Millie Turner as former team-mate Amy (who has since joined Orlando Pride).
United have defended themselves, of course, saying that they have made plenty of new appointments to the medical and sports science staff for the women's team. However, they have also made a string of assurances stretching back to the team's professional launch in 2018 guaranteeing a revamp of the old training facility at The Cliff, which would be for the women's sole use.
Ed Woodward was quoted in the press release announcing Skinner's arrival, declaring: "Marc is a coach with proven pedigree in the WSL and we are delighted he is joining the club and returning to the league after his recent time in the US.
Our commitment to the continued development and success of the women’s team is total, and we see Marc’s appointment, along with the talented squad and players recruited this summer, as key to that process."
And they'll take plenty of reassurance from some of the players they still have - England's Ella Toone and Netherlands' Jackie Groenen are currently featuring in the Olympic Games, and the club has also just announced the arrivals of Scotland striker Martha Thomas, England youth goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley, Chelsea's Hannah Blundell and former Manchester City player Aoife Mannion as well as Norway international Vilde Boe Risa.
Skinner has four weeks to get his squad sorted out and in the right frame of mind to launch into the new Women's Super League season at the start of September.