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Mannion Ready for new Season After Crossing Manchester Divide


Peter Schmeichel. Carlos Tevez. Abbie McManus. In either the men's or women's game, it's always a slightly controversial decision to switch sides in Manchester, but that is just the move defender Aoife Mannion made this summer.

Having signed for Manchester City in 2019 from Birmingham City, Mannion was unable to make her mark on the blue side of the city.

A serious ACL injury in October 2019 - just three months and 10 days after joining the club - saw her out of action until February this year, keeping her off the field for 458 days. She made just 11 appearances for City before leaving at the end of her contract last season.

"It was a struggle two-fold - just the length of the injury lay-off and also that the rehab straddled the pandemic," Mannion explained ahead of Friday's Barclays FA Women's Super League curtain-raiser against Reading, live on Sky Sports.

"I did a lot of my rehab in my parents' garden so I think everyone feels like a different person coming out of the pandemic and that's the same for me. Coming back from that means I don't take for granted being able to play.

"We played a pre-season match in Scotland and I had to remind myself that it was only the third full game I'd played since 2019, obviously due to the pandemic and then the injury. I really feel like a new kid at school, just finding my feet and really enjoying each game as it comes, which is a shift in perspective on how I'm seeing things."

Aoife Mannion's appearance in a pre-season friendly against Rangers was just her third full 90 minutes since 2019 
Aoife Mannion's appearance in a pre-season friendly against Rangers was just her third full 90 minutes since 2019

Mannion eventually signed for Manchester United in July, but it is not the first time she has been bold with her choice of club.

A native of Birmingham, she made her senior debut at Aston Villa before switching to Birmingham City in August 2013. From there, she made the jump to Man City, one again challenging herself, but Mannion insists her decisions have not been deliberate.

"It's definitely not something I've actively looked for, it's funny how things just pop up and it's easy to put the dots together looking back," the defender said.

"It makes quite a compelling story and I find myself looking back thinking 'maybe, subconsciously, is that what I have been looking for?'. But I don't think it's like that at all. When I set out at each club, it's with the full intent to be there.

"But something that speaks true of football is that it's quite an emotive sport, it involves a lot of passion from the fans and everyone involved, so these moves really galvanise the supporters' interest so moving from City to United is going to spark that. So I think it is something that we like that those moves spark a bit of emotion.

"I think the attraction of United speaks for itself. It was a really exciting prospect and I knew a few of the girls and the journey they seemed to be on. It seemed like one I really wanted to be a part of and so it felt natural.

"I did have some good moments in the two years at City and obviously there is always going to be talk when you go from one side of the city to the other, but all in all, I'm really happy, I'm really settled and I'm quite excited for the season."

Aoife Mannion spent six years with Birmingham City 
Aoife Mannion spent six years with Birmingham City

Mannion's arrival at United sees her reunited with Marc Skinner, who she knows from her time at Birmingham. The 25-year-old played for two-and-a-half years under the manager, with the pair leaving the Blues months apart and joining United within three days of one another.

Both have faced different challenges in the interim. Skinner, who was credited with a huge turnaround in the culture at Birmingham during his tenure, spent two years with Orlando Pride and Mannion has noticed changes in his training routines.

"His personality and him as a character is incredibly similar, but there are little things in training that I say 'did you pick that up in Orlando?'," she said.

"The league over there is so different, they had different challenges and the style is so different so I've noticed there's some bits he's taken and brought back to the WSL. His training regime has evolved, and I really enjoyed it before so I would say it's even better now, if that's a thing.

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