Ella Toone is well and truly flying for Manchester United women’s team this season. With four goals and four assists to her name aleady so far in the 2021-22 campaign, Toone is the all time female leading goalscorer for her childhood club.
Despite playing in Manchester United’s regional talent centre (RTC) from a young age, Toone did not have an easy pathway to the women’s first team – mainly because as she was growing up, there wasn’t one.
Speaking to Sportsmail, Toone recalled, “It was tough growing up in the RTC with no women’s team to look up to, which is what I love now about the RTC – they have people and role models they can look up to and a team they can try and progress into.“
On the subject of role models, there is one player that Toone idolised from a very young age – her male No.7 compatriot, Cristiano Ronaldo.
“When I was younger I used to always have the No.7 shirt, every time I would have Ronaldo and seven on the back or Toone.
“I used to always wear his boots as well. I still look up to him now with his work rate and desire. He’s achieved so much as a player, he was my biggest role model growing up.”
Now, of course, with Ronaldo back in United Red and kicking ball at Old Trafford, she shares a training ground with him.
“I haven’t seen him yet, I’m actually gutted. We train at Carrington now and the men are there but you never really see them. Hopefully one day I manage to bump into him!“
It is well known that Cristiano Ronaldo was obsessed with wanting to be the best from a young age – a trait that both No.7’s have in common. Ella Toone was not just competitive on the pitch, but took part in a whole range of sports when she was younger, something which gives all young athletes a taste of competition and thrill that some gain an even bigger thirst for as they grow older. This sporting nature is also a trait that runs in her family.
“My mum was a gymnast when she was younger so we used to do that and my other side of the family are all swimmers and water polo players so we did that as well. In school I did everything – table tennis, netball, cross country, tennis, honestly everything.“
“I think being involved in lots of sports made me have that competitive edge and that winning mentality – I hated losing anything. I want to win everything so playing in all those sports and competing from a young age has really helped me in my career now.”
After leaving United’s RTC, she headed to Blackburn Rovers to continue her development into professional first team football – a move that many can safely say aided her career so far excellently.
“It was a hard choice but I think it’s one of the best things I ever did to go away from Manchester United and push myself to get in the first team at Blackburn.“
While playing for Blackburn, Toone signed a duel contract with Manchester City. This allowed her to play for Blackburn on the weekends, while also training with some of the biggest stars in the women’s game, such as Toni Duggan and Lucy Bronze – giving her unparalelled experience and insight in to what it meant to be a professional footballer at the highest level.
However, once United decided they were going to launch a women’s first team, Toone thought it was a no-brainer that she had to return to the club she loved; the club where she took her first steps in to professional football.
“Casey [Stoney] reached out and I bit her hand off as soon as I knew there was a Manchester United women’s team forming. I wanted to come back home and play for them. That’s all I ever wanted. I’m really grateful Casey reached out and put her trust and belief in me. She made the team so together, we’re like a family now.
“That’s what makes it so enjoyable and you want to play for each other on the pitch as well. Playing for someone who has played in the women’s game at such a high level was quite refreshing because she just understood things that not many people do.“
Her ambitions don’t just stop there. To Sportsmail, Toone detailed her willingness to be successful with her country too.
“Representing your country is the most amazing thing you can ever do and it’s so special.“
UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 kicks off in the summer, and the opening fixture of England’s roadmap is being played at Old Trafford – a game that, if she were to feature, would be a fantastic representation of what she has achieved in her career so far.
“Manchester United and Old Trafford is a big part of me and hopefully I get to step out onto that pitch with the England shirt on. It would be an amazing day for me and my family. It’s something I’ll work hard towards and hopefully I’ll be involved in it.“
Ella Toone is a fan following her dreams. But, it’s so much more than that. She is proof to the millions of female Manchester United fans out there that their dreams are not impossible, and she’s only just getting started.