Manchester United Women midfielder Lisa Naalsund is on course to play a prominent role in the remainder of the season says manager Marc Skinner.
The Norwegian international has featured five times in the Barclays WSL in 2023-24, with one of those from the start (against Manchester City at Old Trafford in November). Naalsund, 28, had started both legs of the Champions League qualifier with Paris Saint-Germain in October, scoring her first goal for the club in the decisive 3-1 defeat in France.
Further appearances have come in the Conti Cup, with a goal against Leicester City, but supporters can seemingly look forward to a lot more of the 28-year-old in the coming months. The Reds are in FA Cup action this weekend, with Sunday’s fourth-round tie at home to Newcastle United, the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier Division (third tier) leaders.
The FA Cup was the competition in which Naalsund made her Manchester United debut last March, in the quarter-final with Lewes, though she was forced off through injury. United boss Marc Skinner was asked by She Kicks in his pre-match press conference this morning how satisfied he is with the current midfield options in the squad, and whether they may add any new signings in that area this month.
“In all honesty, probably not in this window,” he responded. “We were obviously waiting on Iri (Spain international Irene Guerrero) to come back, and Iri has this quality we’ve not really seen yet, because she took an injury and she was out for ten weeks.”
“She was trying to get used to how we play, then it was an injury, so there’s a space there for her to grow. I’ve been really impressed with the way Lisa Naalsund’s come back from the break, and the energy that she’s given to the team I’m really, really impressed with, and so I’m hoping to see a big part that she can play towards the second part of the season.
“We obviously have our specialists within Katie (Zelem) and Hayley (Ladd), in terms of controlling midfield, and obviously Tooney (Ella Toone) in those pockets as well. What we do have is the ability to adapt; we have forwards that can easily play within those (number) ten roles, and so I’m actually quite happy with that area and the expertise we have.
“Going forwards, we need the depth, continued depth, but I think if we were to recruit (this month), it’s probably more within the defensive units, to give us the quality and depth needed to progress.”
Aforementioned Spain midfielder Irene Guerrero is now available again after injury. Another of the team’s headline arrivals this season was Brazil forward Geyse, joining from Barcelona in August.
The Champions League winner has shown glimpses of her considerable flair, with a first WSL goal also coming against West Ham United. Asked about the on and off-field adaptation so far for the 25-year-old, Skinner told She Kicks that she is another player who will soon come to the fore.
“I think she’s had a good break; going home and seeing family, getting the sunshine in Brazil will obviously help. The darkest months in England are obviously probably January and February, but what I’ve seen, even in the PSV Eindhoven (friendly) game (in Malta this month), 45 minutes, was just that adaptation; it just takes time.
“I think Geyse is an unbelievable player, and someone that this team will benefit massively from, especially going throughout this season and the next season. Towards this second half of this season and next season, you’re going to see a totally different player.
“For me, she has magic in her boots, but it’s also about us adapting to her, and I think we’re doing that a lot more. We’re becoming more attuned to her and she’s attuned to how we play.
“What I loved especially in the PSV Eindhoven game was actually, in our team, you have to continue to work and sprint away from the ball, because we work as a team, and I saw that in abundance. We’ve got a game package for her, and just to show all the qualities she has.
“It’s building nicely, and I’m hoping it has a massive impact in the second part of the season.”