Masked assassin Ella Toone rediscovers cutting edge for Manchester United against Newcastle

Ella Toone (C) - Masked assassin Toone rediscovers cutting edge for Man Utd against Newcastle

Manchester United 5 Newcastle 0

Ella Toone was England’s super-sub during their European Championship triumph in 2022, but her form since has not always hit the same heights.

Against third-tier Newcastle United in the Women’s FA Cup fourth round, though, Toone showed her cutting edge while also sporting a new look: a protective mask worn as a precaution after she picked up a facial injury recently.

Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner feels Toone has received undeserved criticism in recent months and praised the England midfielder’s application, character and skill after her spectacular opening goal helped his team overcome Newcastle.

Toone lashed a strike into the top-left corner to break the deadlock after nearly half-an-hour of stubborn resistance from a Newcastle side who looked more than capable of playing at Championship level. The underdogs were eventually overpowered by last season’s finalists, as an in-form Nikita Parris scored twice – Toone providing the assist for her first – before substitutes Rachel Williams and Melvine Malard both got on the scoresheet late on.

“She took a lot of criticism that I thought she didn’t deserve, because everyone has high standards of her,” Skinner said of Toone. “It’s like Manchester United, everyone always has high standards and if you don’t match that there’s a ‘crisis’.

“But what Ella has been doing really well is simplifying her game. When she draws pressure, she releases, but she releases it with quality and she moves again. She’s been a breath of fresh air. Her attitude towards her own development again is right back in where it needs to be and it’s only a good sign.”

Toone was wearing the mask to guard her nose after she was caught by a flailing arm during a friendly against PSV in Malta during the Women’s Super League’s winter break earlier in January, but was passed fit to play after successfully going through the concussion protocols this week. But it did not appear to hinder her and her delight at getting on the scoresheet was clear.

Ella Toone - Toone rediscovers cutting edge for Manchester United against Newcastle
Ella Toone (right) was unstoppable throughout the first 45 minutes and almost every attacking move went through the midfielder - Getty Images/Charlotte Tattersall

Skinner also feels Toone has benefitted from the chance to recover during the winter break, after a busy year where she was part of the Lionesses squad that reached the World Cup final. “I think she was able to get away, she went on holiday with her family and that enabled her to refresh,” he said. “Tooney will tell you, she wants to play every minute of every game forever, but the reality is, humans often don’t know what’s best for them. It’s also a pleasure to manage someone who wants to play every second. She loves football. If she’s not playing it, she’ll watch it, she’ll be at Manchester United men’s games if she’s not playing at Manchester United Women.”

Skinner praised Newcastle too, adding: “It was a really, really good game. Credit to Newcastle, I don’t think it’ll be long before they’re in the WSL, I really don’t. They dropped off towards the end because of the way we played but they were right in the game.”

Newcastle manager Becky Langley felt her side gave a “good account of ourselves” and felt the strong, first-choice team that their top-flight opponents named showed how much her side are respected, saying: “When I saw the team sheet I was surprised but not surprised. It was a joy for us to see them play their full-strength team, a big compliment.

“Having 1,000 of our fans coming to support us is unbelievable. Those memories will stay with players forever. To be honest I had a tear in my eye when I woke up and saw the photographs of everyone at St James’ Park at 6.30am, to see that many people.”

Langley’s Newcastle side are five points clear at the top of the Northern Premier Division, having played a game more than second-placed Burnley, and aspiring to reach the WSL in future. While Langley saw positive signs on Sunday she also knows there is a long way to go, adding: “Obviously it’s the physical bits where the Manchester United players have had much more exposure and experience with strength and conditioning programmes as full-time athletes. We’re only six months into our full-time programme in the third tier. Now it’s about ensuring we win our league this season and get back-to-back promotions.”

Match details

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Earps 6; Riviere 6 (Evans 6, 72), Le Tissier 7, Turner 6, Blundell 6; Ladd 6 (Guerrero 7, 65), Zelem 6; Geyse 7 (Williams 7, 66), Toone 8, Garcia 6 (Galton 7, 65); Parris 8 (Malard 7, 65)
Goals: Toone 28, Parris 37, 55, Williams 71, Malard 90+1
Subs not used: Tullis-Joyce (gk)
Newcastle United (4-3-3): Donnelly 6; Stobbs 6, Potts 6, Greenwood 6 (Burt 6, 87), Watt 6; Gibson 5 (Bedeau 6, 59), Boddy 6, Kelly 5; Dodds 5 (Elson 5, 59), Galloway 5 (Soulsby 6, 75), Barker 5 (McQuade 5, 75)
Subs not used: Milne-Redhead, Wilkinson, Boyes, Reid (gk)
Referee: Megan Wilson
Attendance: 4,731

Round-up: Holders Chelsea come through stern West Ham test

Women’s FA Cup holders Chelsea needed extra-time to edge past West Ham United in the fourth round on a day devoid of any major shock results in the competition.

Emma Hayes’s side, bidding to win the cup for a fourth season in a row, fell behind when France’s Viviane Asseyi put fellow top-flight side West Ham ahead early at Kingsmeadow, but Chelsea – adapting to the absence of their star striker Sam Kerr following her ACL injury and without injured England centre-back Millie Bright too – recovered to dominate the rest of the contest.

United States forward Mia Fishel levelled before goals from Erin Cuthbert and Sjoeke Nusken won the tie 3-1 in the added 30 minutes.

Record 14-times winners Arsenal gave a debut to USA full-back Emily Fox and comfortably beat Championship outfit Watford 5-1. The other good news for Arsenal fans is that it is understood England forward Beth Mead is unhurt having appeared to suffer an injury late on.

Manchester City were 4-0 victors at Durham’s sold-out Maiden Castle ground, on a Sunday when no Women’s Super League sides were eliminated by lower-league opposition.

The side that came closest to being on the wrong end of an upset were Tottenham, as they went 2-0 down at home to Sheffield United, but a brace from fit-again striker Bethany England and then Rosella Ayane’s 96th-minute winner dashed the South Yorkshire club’s hopes.

The biggest and only upset of the day saw third-tier Wolves come from behind to earn a memorable 2-1 away victory at second-tier strugglers Reading, thanks to a late winner from Destiney Toussaint. There was £54,000 in prize money for each of the winning sides after the prize pot was doubled from last year.

The lowest-ranked team left in the competition, fifth-tier Luton Town, were beaten 6-0 by top-tier Brighton, while Hampshire club Moneyfields, of tier four, lost 4-0 away at second-tier London City Lionesses. The 2012 cup winners and current Championship leaders Birmingham City needed extra-time to squeeze past third-tier Burnley.

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