The Manchester United Women’s soccer team are set to be moved into portable buildings at the club’s Carrington training complex for the 2024-2025 season to allow the men’s squad to use the women’s building while their indoor facilities are being revamped.

The £50 million ($60.2 million) investment is intended to modernize the men’s first team building at Carrington, with it being understood that portable buildings will house everyday zones, such as changing rooms, team meeting rooms, and communal areas for the women’s players and staff, although they will still be using the same pitches and canteen as before.

Sources have suggested that many different options were explored, but the conclusion was that the women’s team still being able to stay at Carrington and use the pitches there was preferable to relocating them to a different site where the quality of the training pitches and fitness and nutrition facilities would not have been as high.

This decision from United, unsurprisingly, has faced much criticism. If roles were reversed, the women’s team would not take priority over the men’s first team. As is clear, those making decisions within United do not see the men’s and women’s teams as equal.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the co-owner of United, with a minority investment in the club and sporting control, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg regarding the refurbishment plans for the club’s training ground. Not only did he refer to the women’s team as ‘ladies’- an old school phrase which has been dropped due to its connotations, but also when mentioning the ‘first team’, he was, in fact, referring to the men’s team, rather than the women’s.

Ratcliffe explained during the interview that the club’s priorities are with the men’s team and the training facility refurbishment. When asked about any plans for the women’s training facility, he suggested it was yet to be decided.

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This interview has shone a light on the treatment of the women’s team at Man United. The team had a disappointing 2023-24 season, finishing fifth, their worst-ever Women’s Super League (WSL) finish, winning just 10 out of their 22 matches. However, after the FA Cup triumph, this softened the blow of their poor season.

The FA Cup was won by both the United men’s and women’s teams at the end of 2023-2024 season, however, Ratcliffe only attended one of the fixtures, the men’s final.

If the club’s co-owner hadn’t already made his priorities clear, he attended the men’s FA Cup final after running 26.2 miles in the London Marathon. He chose to attend the club’s men’s game against Arsenal, rather than the Women’s FA Cup final.

It was reported in the Athletic today that the Professional Footballers’ Association is ready to seek conversations with Manchester United after being made aware of growing discontent regarding the club’s management of their women’s team.

The women’s side have found themselves in an unstable position heading into the 2024-2025 season. They finished the end of the last campaign with no fewer than five key senior players who were yet to agree new contracts, one of these senior players being England goalkeeper, Mary Earps. However, recent reports have indicated Earps is moving to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on a free transfer.

Given Manchester United Women’s poor season, it would have been thought that the team needed to be a priority in terms of contracts and transfers. However, given the club’s recent decisions regarding the training facilities, United are not giving their women’s players any reason to stay.

With at least two senior players already set to leave, one being Earps, it doesn’t reflect positively ahead of the 2024-25 season.

There are clubs around Europe and within the WSL that are providing their women’s teams with excellent training facilities and support, and not making them feel inferior to the men’s side. Earps’ move to PSG proves this.

The club’s women’s team has historically been treated poorly by their own. The side experienced a 13-year absence between 2005 to 2018 due to the women’s team being abolished after Malcolm Glazer took over the team in 2005.

Since 2018, the team has experienced some success but given Manchester United are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, clubs in the world, the team as a whole is underperforming.

The extent of the impact of Ratcliffe’s comments has the potential to be really damaging, particularly the message he is portraying. His lack of priority towards the women’s team will pass down beyond Manchester United, but to wider young girls who play at grassroots level.

If young girls are seeing a lack of care and importance towards women’s professional teams, that could majorly deter them from wanting to pursue a career in the sport.

The comments made by Ratcliffe are certainly disappointing, however, it is important to not let this take the attention away from the positive progress women’s soccer has made, especially in the WSL.

The 2023-24 season was record-breaking. In terms of attendance, the cumulative attendance for both the WSL and the Women’s Championship passed one million. The milestone was reached in April 2024.

Larger WSL crowds are becoming more common with an increased number of games being played at the stadiums which are used by the men’s sides. Every WSL team, other than West Ham United, played at least one game at their main stadium during the 2023-24 season.

Arsenal’s women’s side set a new attendance record for a single fixture with 60,160 tickets sold for their fixture against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in February 2024.

Women’s soccer is experiencing continued success with increasing popularity, but such comments and decisions made by Ratcliffe and United feel like the sport is taking steps back in terms of its progress.

In today’s current climate, equality in sport has been a major focus. However, it is alarming that one of the major sports clubs in the world is still not viewing their club sides as equally important.

As to where this leaves the United women’s side, things will only become clear once the season gets underway. However, with the potential loss of several of their senior players and being moved into portable buildings at their training ground, it could be another disappointing season for the team.