First-Time Winners Or A Treble Double? Man Utd, Chelsea And The WSL's New Dawn

Manchester United face Chelsea in the FA Cup Final this weekend...
12:01, 10 May 2023

Chelsea host Leicester City tonight in the Women’s Super League knowing that a win will take them just one point behind leaders Manchester United, with a game in hand. With only four league matches remaining, Emma Hayes’ side simply need to keep on winning to make it four consecutive WSL titles, but they are facing fierce competition once again for the big prizes. 

This time, rather than an injury-hit Arsenal side that pushed them all the way last time, the challenge has come from the north-west. Marc Skinner’s Manchester United have won their last seven games in all competitions, but crucially lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the league to lose control of their own destiny. 

United have been superb this term and shocked many with their relentless consistency that has given us a title race to treasure, with Arsenal and Manchester City sticking with the pace for the majority of the season. But now, with only a handful of matches remaining, it does look like the big domestic prizes will go to these two teams. 


The FA Cup final this weekend at Wembley will be another milestone occasion. The national stadium will be sold out as the Red Devils try to prevent Chelsea from winning their third FA Cup on the trot. Having done domestic doubles in the past two seasons, there’s no doubt that Hayes has made the Blues the single dominant force of the women’s game. The Champions League still evades them but on English soil they’ve been practically untouchable. 

Their experience is going to be key in this run-in, and in the FA Cup final itself. They’ve won almost everything there is to win, whereas Manchester United have never won a major trophy in their history. The Championship title from 2017/18 was impressive, but doesn’t fit into that category while the furthest they’ve been in the FA Cup before this term is the quarter-final stage. 

A trio of fourth place league finishes had United placed as emerging contenders. But few thought they would be able to overhaul both Arsenal and Man City this season. Now they’ve taken a major stride forward, after a summer of sensible recruitment. Maya Le Tissier has improved their back line since joining from Brighton & Hove Albion, starting every league game this term, while Nikita Parris’ arrival from Arsenal has given them something extra in terms of attacking depth. Spaniard Lucia Garcia has done well in her first season in England and another summer like last year could see them firmly assert themselves as a top-two club.

But there are only three games left for them to make this season a truly memorable one. They face Chelsea at Wembley in their bid to win that first major trophy, before a Manchester derby could knock their title challenge off the rails. City can no longer win the WSL, but making sure their nearest rivals don’t would give Gareth Taylor’s side huge satisfaction as they look to end their own season on a high. 

The final day will see United travel to Liverpool in another derby match, while Chelsea face basement club Reading away from home in a game they certainly should win. The Blues’ biggest test will come when they host Arsenal on the penultimate weekend. If they can win that, surely they will be champions. 

But United’s progress signals a new dawn in the WSL. They could end it with the two major domestic trophies, even if Betfred have priced them as the 21/10 outsiders to beat Chelsea at Wembley. But even if they end it empty handed, they have progressed to a level where they are now serious challengers. 

Next season, after more investment, they will be able to go again. Once Arsenal’s stars recover from their ACL injuries, they will emerge once more as title contenders. Jonas Eidevall may well go big in the transfer market so that they can fight without them. Meanwhile, Man City are improving incrementally, but they won’t want to let United leapfrog them with such ease again. 

There’s now a big four in the WSL. The days of Chelsea dominance appear to be ending, but they might not be over quite yet. The Blues are targeting another double, United want their very first trophy. This season has been a sign of things to come. 

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