Manchester United, Arsenal and the battle for Mary Earps

The Lionesses No 1 is in high demand after her stellar World Cup performances

Ben Fleming
Friday 15 September 2023 13:51 BST

Fresh off her superb performances at the Women’s World Cup, Mary Earps is back in the headlines after two of the biggest clubs in the WSL fought to secure her services on the eve of the new season.

Earps further enhanced her reputation as the best goalkeeper in women’s football having won the Golden Glove in Australia for her efforts at the World Cup.

The 30-year-old was a vital cog in the England side that made it all the way to the final where the Lionesses would eventually fall short, losing 1-0 to Spain in heartbreaking fashion despite Earps making a heroic penalty save in the second half.

England’s boss Sarina Weigman has dubbed her “crucial” and a “top, top keeper” for the national team but her long-term club future at current club Manchester United is under threat after interest from a host of top teams around Europe, most notably WSL rivals Arsenal, who made a world-record bid for the shot-stopper last month.

Mary Earps’ performances in the Women’s World Cup won her the Golden Glove award

As the WSL transfer deadline day closed on Thursday evening, Earps is set to remain with United – where she has spent the last four seasons since signing from Wolfsburg in 2019 – but head coach Marc Skinner and the team’s hierarchy will face a battle to keep her at the club past this season, and even January.

Earps has only one year left on her current deal, meaning the Fifa Best Women’s Goalkeeper could leave on a free transfer at the end of this season, which gets under way on 1 October. The keeper has reportedly been in negotiations with United for a number of months now but no agreement has been reached.

Having turned down that world-record bid last month from Arsenal, United hope they can convince the 30-year-old to change her mind and agree to sign a contract extension. If not, they may face the prospect of having to sell their star asset in January or let her leave for nothing next summer.

United were faced with a similar situation last summer when dealing with the contract of fellow England international, Alessia Russo. Having rejected a world-record bid of £500,000 from Arsenal on the eve of the January transfer window deadline, the Manchester club then saw the 24-year-old leave for free at the end of the season and join the north London side. They will undoubtedly want to avoid that same fate again.

Russo left United last year to sign for Arsenal

Earps has not publically spoken out about the interest from Arsenal or her long-term future at the club but reports suggest the England number one is keen on the move. Manchester United’s deadline-day acquisition of American keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce from US side OL Reign may also suggest that they are beginning to prepare for life without their star shot-stopper.

For now, the window is shut and the focus turns to the WSL season. United finished second last season – two points behind eventual winners Chelsea – and may well need to sustain a similar title challenge to try and convince Earps to stay.

Providing she does not sign a contract extension in the coming months, January will provide the next test of United’s mettle. Having failed to recoup a fee for Russo last year, they may well be forced to cash in on their keeper this time around. Should that be the case, Earps will not be short of offers.

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