Casey Stoney challenged her side to improve the next time they get the chance to play at Old Trafford after admitting she was disappointed by their performance against West Ham.
The men’s international break provided the chance for Manchester United Women to make the switch from their regular home at Leigh Sports Village for Saturday’s Women’s Super League clash.
A 2-0 victory over the bottom side gave United a vital three points in their bid for Champions League football, with goals early in the second half from teenage England striker Lauren James and United States international Christen Press.
But Stoney felt her side played the occasion rather than the game in a disappointing first half, and she said: “I’ve come away from it disappointed with us in terms of an exhibition.
“If there was a crowd they would have been disappointed in the first half so it’s just as well there wasn’t. We’ve done it now and for me it’s about next time, doing it with fans and being better.”
Stoney told her players exactly what she thought at half-time and was pleased with the response.
“I wasn’t happy at half-time, I let the players know that,” she said. “It was sloppy. I think against a better team we would have got caught.
“We needed to get better and the response was much more positive. We moved the ball well, created a lot of chances. The pleasing thing I’ll take away is the way we defended set-pieces.
“If you want to play Champions League football, you need to play at a Champions League standard. It’s a grass pitch and we should be better.”
Forward Ella Toone, who played for the club as a girl but was forced to leave due to the lack of a women’s team at the time, relished the occasion.
She said: “As a United fan it’s a dream come true to play on such an amazing pitch. It was a special occasion. But the main thing was we got the three points.
“Of course you’re playing at a massive stadium. It was the first time so maybe some of us did play the occasion a bit. Second half we got on the ball better, played as a team a bit more.
“Hopefully we’ll get to play here with fans and we can look up in the stands when we score and see our family and friends.”
West Ham boss Olli Harder welcomed the stage given to his players, saying: “They all thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be here. I thought it was a decent promotion of women’s football.
“The girls weren’t overwhelmed by the occasion. They came on and they were excited to play.”
The result was another blow in West Ham’s relegation fight but Harder was pleased with his players and used their post-match gathering on the pitch to keep spirits up.
The New Zealander said: “We just obviously applauded the effort. The application today was fantastic.
“We said ‘it’s OK to be disappointed’, what’s not OK is for us to give up this fight. We’ve got a lot of tough games coming up and we carry on. The tide will turn.”