It took the new recruit Maya Le Tissier only four minutes to make her mark in a Manchester United shirt, scoring the first of two goals that would help her side to a 4-0 win over Reading.
Her manager, Marc Skinner, hailed the 20-year-old as “mature and aggressive” and said she can become “a star in the future” after her debut double.
“My job is to keep her being normal, but she can be a real star in the future, no doubt,” he said.
“In lots of moments today she was really mature and aggressive when she needed to be. We’re not just going to get goals from her but solid performances from the back and progression with the ball.
“She has forward-playing ability and can strike the ball really well. Her passing range is excellent. Her maturity and concentration and all these things – she has a lot of the tools.”
Le Tissier – no relation of Matt, although they both come from Guernsey – made a formidable debut after joining United from Brighton in the summer. First, she sent Katie Zelem’s corner looping over Grace Moloney, who seemed to misread the dip on the clipped effort, then she rose to head another Zelem corner past the Reading keeper.
Those goals sandwiched a Zelem penalty, after the referee ruled that Moloney had caught Alessia Russo, though replays suggested she had also got a touch on the ball.
It was a dream start for Le Tissier, and a wholly unexpected one given she is a centre-back. “To get two goals … You don’t expect that,” Skinner said. “Both finishes were really good and cultured.”
Le Tissier’s impact from set pieces will come as no surprise to those who have watched the England youth player before, but her increased potency in and around the box thanks to the accuracy of Zelem’s crosses will send a warning through the league that United’s threat is not limited to Russo and Ella Toone.
Of Skinner’s seven new recruits, two were chosen in the starting lineup to face Reading in what was only the second game of the WSL season, as a result of last weekend’s opening round being postponed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Le Tissier was joined by the Spanish forward Lucía García, who scored 59 goals in 148 games for Athletic Bilbao before joining, in making her debut in front of a lively crowd of 5,315 at Leigh Sports Village, a record for the team at the ground. García’s first game in England may have been overshadowed by Le Tissier, but the Spaniard also made an impact, sending the full-back Ona Batlle racing down the line to cross for Russo, who headed in.
It was United’s fourth goal in the first 35 minutes and it was a bruising start for Kelly Chambers’ Reading, who also began with two of their seven new players – Lauren Wade and Charlie Wellings – in their first XI.
After United’s strong first half, one worthy of a team looking to splinter apart the traditional top three of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea and earn a place in the Champions League for the first time, Reading regrouped.
The travelling side looked far more organised and settled after the break, though a host of changes had also arrested United’s rhythm, but the damage had already been done. Reading managed only two shots to United’s 24 and 24% of possession, despite their second-half improvement.
Next up for Skinner’s United is a trip to West Ham next Sunday as they look to expand on their first win, while Reading will play Hope Powell’s Brighton.