Manchester United made a winning start to life under new boss Marc Skinner as they beat Reading 2-0 at Leigh Sports Village in the opening match of the 2021-22 Women’s Super League season.
Kirsty Hanson gave United the lead with a cool finish in the 39th minute, set up by Ella Toone.
England midfielder Toone was then the provider again as Ona Batlle fired in a second in the 54th minute.
That came shortly after a contentious moment when an effort from Reading’s Brooke Chaplen looked as if it may have been over the line, with the verdict from the officials, in the absence of goal-line technology, being no goal.
As well as being United’s first competitive outing under Skinner, who succeeded Casey Stoney in July, and the curtain-raiser for the new top-flight season, the match was notable as the first WSL contest to be shown live on Sky Sports, as part of the division’s new broadcast deal.
After players from both teams took a knee prior to kick-off, prompting applause from the crowd at the stadium, Kelly Chambers’ Reading made a lively start that included Chaplen hitting a shot over.
United’s first real chance came in the 22nd minute when the visitors miscued as they tried to deal with a ball into the box and Grace Moloney’s attempted punch fell to Leah Galton, who was unable to get her strike on target.
With the home side starting to find some rhythm, Lucy Staniforth – having been booked for a challenge on Reading skipper Natasha Harding – then sent a shot off-target from just outside the box.
And soon after United were in front as Toone played a delightful through ball and Hanson slotted into the corner of the net.
Reading’s subsequent search for an equaliser saw Chaplen crack a shot against the United bar six minutes into the second half.
As the ball came down off the bar and bounced it looked as if it had possibly crossed the line, but referee Abigail Byrne and her assistants allowed play to continue.
Moments later, United doubled the advantage as Batlle received the ball from Toone and sent a fine shot high past Moloney.
United might have added further to their lead, with substitute Martha Thomas sending two efforts wide.