Aoife Mannion reflects on her return after 11 months with a cruciate ligament injury

Aoife Mannion reflects on her return after 11 months with a cruciate ligament injury

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Manchester United defender Aoife Mannion has admitted she got a little nervous ahead of her long-awaited return from action after the ACL injury that ruled her out for 11 months, before quickly regaining momentum.

Mannion tore his right cruciate ligament in early February in last season’s Conti Cup semifinals against Chelsea. She finished the game and apart from something not feeling quite right at half-time, the problem didn’t become fully apparent until the next day.

It was very different from the first time she tore the same ligament in a Champions League game for former club Manchester City just over two years earlier.

Surgery was performed at the time and by the summer Mannion – who is part of United’s senior management team alongside Katie Zelem, Ona Batlle and Hayley Ladd – was making good progress in the recovery process. Her return was long scheduled for January.

The 27-year-old was called up for United’s last game of 2022 on December 18 with no intention of playing but to get back into the swing of things and was then called up in the starting XI for Friday’s mid-season Friendly match against Birkirkara in Malta.

When coach Marc Skinner made big changes at half-time in the 10-0 win against the Maltese champions, she had 45 crucial minutes in her legs.

“I wasn’t that nervous, but in the hours leading up to the game I was like, ‘Oh god, I haven’t actually played in such a long time!'” Mannion later told club media.

“That was a very important day for me personally. But once the whistle blew and the ball started rolling, luckily I felt very comfortable, very confident and obviously had a great team around me.

“The girls and staff have been so supportive of us. I’ve sustained this injury twice and one of the things that made the journey a little bit easier this time is just the people around me. I was really lucky and I think that contributed to how good I felt [coming back].”

That closeness has been one of the key characteristics of the United squad this season and underpinned their strong start to the season. Players such as Ella Toone and Nikita Parris commented that close off-field relationships directly and positively impacted performances.

For the remainder of January, United meet Liverpool when the WSL calendar resumes next weekend, before heading to Reading on January 22 and a week later in the first FA Cup game of the season against Blackburn or Sunderland – that one will be decided on Sunday.

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