Mary Earps believes Manchester United can become one of the best teams in women’s football “within the next five or six years” providing they embrace their status as underdogs first in the Women’s Super League.
United welcome Arsenal for their first top-flight fixture at Leigh Sports Village on Monday evening where they will look to earn their first points of the campaign following their 1-0 loss to Manchester City at The Etihad on the opening weekend of the season.
“Arsenal are a strong side in their own right in terms of the players they’ve brought in and the players they’ve developed over the years,” said goalkeeper Earps, who made her United bow in front of a record WSL crowd of 31,213 at the historic derby. “There’s a reason they won the league last year. I think they very much deserve to have their Champions League status back.
“Obviously, we’re definitely the underdogs in that game - like we will be in many games this season. But I think we’ve shown that with the style of football we’re trying to play, we’re not just going to be defensive and try and win games that way. There’s a future we’re trying to build.”
Along with former FFC Frankfurt midfielder Jackie Groenen, Earps is one of two high-profile recruits to join Casey Stoney’s outfit from the German Bundesliga over the summer after United’s first-team goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain announced her pregnancy.
Having featured for no less than seven English sides during her career - including spells with Birmingham City, Bristol Academy and Reading - she admits United’s long-term ambitions were a “driving factor” in returning to England which could eclipse her unique playing experience in Germany.
“I see United potentially being one of the best clubs in the world within the next five to six years,” continued Earps. “I’m not saying that because it sounds good, I’m saying it because I genuinely believe that. I hope I can be a big part of that. I want to be winning trophies, I want to be playing at the top, I want to be winning leagues, winning cups and winning the Champions League. That’s what I’m here to do and I think United are capable and that’s what sealed the move for me.”
While she did not feature in Wolfsburg’s Champions League campaign last season, Earps’ exposure against top-ranked Bundesliga sides will provide a crucial defensive springboard if United are to target a top-four finish this season. Against Arsenal, the 26-year-old’s credentials are likely to be tested by former Bayern Munich midfielder Jill Roord, who has enjoyed a lightning start since joining Joe Muntemurro’s outfit with four goals in her first two games for the club.
“I actually ended up playing more than I thought I would [at Wolfsburg],” continued Earps, who was included in Phil Neville’s World Cup squad. “I had games with the under-23’s to keep me topping up. The level of training was incredible but I wanted to make sure I kept topping up with minutes.
“Almuth Schult [Wolfsburg keeper] also got injured so I ended up playing a few league games throughout the season as well. One of them was against FFC Turbine Potsdam, the other was Bayern Munich and they’re two of the top three teams [in the Bundesliga] so getting to play against the two best opposition was a great return for me in terms of going out there.”
While she concedes it is too early to entertain thoughts about Champions League qualification, Earps knows that emulating the type of consistency United enjoyed in the Women’s Championship last season - when they won all but two of their games - is the immediate task that lies ahead.
“There are going to be times when we fall short, naturally,” she said. “But it’s all about the long term plan. Of course, we have short-term goals for this season but the exciting stuff is a few years’ down the line.” She added: “No game is going to be one that we look to just get a result out of, we’re looking to win every one. We’re super competitive. Arsenal will be a great test for us.”