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Monday, March 20, 2023

Alessia Russo: Man Utd are top of Women’s Super League

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Superstar strikers in top football leagues around the world are hot property – the Women’s Super League is no different. Arsenal’s highest earner is the division’s all-time leading scorer Vivianne Miedema – Chelsea’s is Aussie hot-shot Sam Kerr. Both are tied down to deals beyond this summer because they are integral to their respective side’s current and future success. Manchester United and England striker Alessia Russo was the breakout talent of last year’s Euros and her approval rating has continued to soar with every goal she has scored this term. She is now a household name.Alessia Russo nets three as leaders Man Utd thrash LeicesterWSL table | Fixtures | Results | Download the Sky Sports AppHow to follow the WSL on Sky Sports Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player A look at Alessia Russo’s best goals in the Women’s Super League But there is a snag. The 24-year-old’s contract expires in July and despite being at the negotiating table for over a year, United are no closer to formalising an agreement to keep their prized asset at the club.So why the reluctance? United currently lead the WSL standings, clear at the top by three points, and are prepared to make Russo one of the highest earners in the women’s game – sounds like an attractive prospect. International Women’s Day 2023: All the best stories from across Sky SportsThe elite athletes changing attitudes around pregnancy and sportYet, having tasted European glory last summer – shooting to near-instant fame as a result – Russo is hungry for more. “We have players who want to play at the highest level,” manager Marc Skinner admitted recently, referring to Russo’s impressive trajectory. Problem is, until the current campaign, Manchester United have been playing catch up on rivals. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City are all further along in their evolution and compete regularly in Europe, with United’s women’s set-up only turning fully professional just over four years ago. As a club they were, perhaps regrettably, frightfully late to the party. The two London teams have long-established histories of success in the women’s game and have dominated the English top flight for over a decade. Between them, they have won nine of the 12 WSL titles on offer (since the division was rebranded as such in 2011). WSL strikers 2022/23 Name Goals Assists Goals per 90 Shot accuracy Mins per goal Khadija Shaw 13 4 0.97 47% 93 Rachel Daly 10 2 0.73 47% 124 Alessia Russo 8 1 0.78 56% 115 Sam Kerr 6 3 0.65 45% 138 It is no wonder, then, that Russo was the subject of two world-record bids in January from the Gunners, who were confident of taking advantage of the forward’s uncertain future. United dug their heels in – a calculated gamble – but the approach nevertheless caused a stir. Arsenal could offer Russo an instant opportunity to play Champions League football – United cannot.The dilemma is made more complicated by the fact that interest is not exclusive to the Emirates. Russo has pursuers worldwide – rightly so. She is a unique talent who has developed a knack for scoring a hatful of goals domestically, as well as internationally, at an enviably young age. Comparably, she is two years Miedema’s junior and five years younger than Kerr. City’s enforcer, Bunny Shaw, is also two years Russo’s senior. Her youthful exuberance would enhance any women’s side in Europe – and further afield (various US-based clubs also hold a curiosity in Russo). Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player Highlights of the Women’s Super League match between Manchester United and Leicester “It’s a wonderful position by Alessia,” Skinner eulogised after Russo completed her first WSL hat-trick against Leicester at the weekend. To put that feat into context, she is also the first player to register a WSL treble in United colours. She has mastered the art of ‘right place, right time’ but is tenacious and dogged too – she ranks fourth in the league for final third ball recoveries.Tracey Leaburn: The woman at the beating heart of Charlton”This is the business end of the season…and we’ve got to be ruthless,” Russo herself said after her latest masterclass. Indeed, her killer instinct is turning the WSL tide in United’s favour but an undercurrent remains – despite Skinner’s public projections of optimism. Russo’s prominence is naturally attracting suitors and noise regarding her indeterminate future will no doubt be unsettling some. After all, successful teams require consistent firepower and that is not always easy to come by. Certainly, Skinner’s side lack much of a back-up if Russo were to ultimately decide her personal endeavour outweighs United’s means.”She is an unbelievable talent and a big part of what we are trying to build here,” her manager also remarked on Sunday, as if to ward off admirers. Ironically, the more goals Russo scores (which will be crucial if United consider themselves part of the title pursuit), the more credit she banks with onlookers waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. Her newfound fandom does not necessarily help United’s long-term cause – which centres on disturbing the previously accepted WSL hierarchy. Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player Sue Smith says Alessia Russo deserves to be winning trophies such as the Champions League and she will have many options and offers if she was to leave Manchester United “I like the fact Man Utd kept hold of her in January because it was big statement to say no,” Sky Sports pundit Sue Smith told the Football Show this week. “Sometimes you’re just in a team that fits you, that suits you.”She deserves to be winning trophies and Champions Leagues – whether that is with United or somebody else,” Smith added.Russo’s England team-mates Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway have all succumbed to the allures of competing on the continent. The latter swapped Manchester for Bayern Munich last summer, while both Bronze and Walsh were tempted to Catalonia by Barcelona. All are into the knockout phases of this season’s Champions League competition – a proven pathway, should Russo wish to follow suit.Addressing a question about the future of Russo and fellow England international Mary Earps, Skinner told a press conference this week: “If you ask both players, I think they’re very happy at Manchester United and with the way we’re performing and what we’re doing…Those two players, especially, will have a big say in whether we achieve [our] targets.” Twitter Due to your consent preferences, you’re not able to view this. Open Privacy Options Indeed, United’s pulling power may well rest on the outcome of the current campaign. As evidenced in January they do not value cash over a possible title challenge – if they did, they would have accepted Arsenal’s advances rather than risk losing their favoured forward on a free transfer. The implications could have been huge.But Russo herself is a European champion with growing ambition. Last summer’s Lionesses triumph emboldened her. She has matured into a wonderfully creative attacking force with infectious flair and untapped ability. Having found her feet, the world is now her oyster.She will be England’s chosen No 9 at the Women’s World Cup in five months’ time. Which club she will represent by that point is anyone’s guess. What is for certain, she will not be short of options.

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