In an interview with the Offside Rule’s Jessy Parker Humphreys, Manchester United’s new signing Christen Press tells all as she makes the move from the NWSL to the WSL.
Christen Press grew up in a household obsessed with sport – her dad was an American football player, her mum a tennis player – so it is no surprise that she has incredible competitive energy.
It is an energy that used to see her take 200 shots a day, inspired by videos her mum showed her of Pele in training.
“I do pride myself on the idea that I have probably taken more shots than any other player in the world,” says Press, speaking to journalists for the first time since her move to Manchester United.
Her training is not quite so rigorous anymore – she describes herself at 31 years old as being at the point in her career where she is “managing [her] load” – but the fire to compete certainly hasn’t gone anywhere.
“We are here to win and we are here to fight for titles,” she says, referring to the joint arrival of her and fellow World Cup winner Tobin Heath.
“I think what we’ll bring is just a relentless mindset towards that and to never question or doubt…that that’s the team’s purpose.”
“What I hope to bring is competitive nature, drive, hard work ethic, and striving for excellence in all that I do.”
It is that kind of mentality which will have attracted Manchester United to the opportunity to sign both Press and Heath.
“When I found out that Manchester United were interested in signing myself and Tobin, I jumped at the opportunity to play for a great club, a massive club with such history.”
“And to play for a manager that’s really well respected,” Press adds.
It is obvious that Casey Stoney played a significant role in attracting both players – an impressive feat for someone only in her third year of first team management.
“Casey has an amazing reputation,” explains Press. “Meeting the staff and my teammates, I think it would be hard to find a group that speaks more highly of a manager.”
“It’s very challenging as a manager to be liked and respected, and she certainly has that.”
“That just makes me incredibly excited to grow and learn from her because I think she’s going to be something special.”
Stoney will surely have been particularly attracted to Press due to her positional versatility. She started out as a number 9 but over recent years has been used by managers on either wing.
“I think it allows me to have a little more of a dynamic nature to my style of play,” Press says, talking about playing out wide. “I’m able to be a little bit more free-flowing, so I think it allows me to play in different styles and systems. With that, I’m very open to wherever I’m needed to play to make the team most successful.”
In Manchester United’s opening day draw against Chelsea, United were able to get joy down their left hand side after half time when Stoney pushed Leah Galton more centrally to allow Ona Batlle the freedom to get forward from the left back position.
Press’ ability to play both centrally and out wide will gel well with Batlle’s attacking instincts.
Press picks out those kinds of tactical shifts as one way that the WSL will challenge her this season.
“In the NWSL, it’s a very transitional, very high-paced game. It’s very direct.”
She has played in Europe before with spells at Goteborg in Sweden and Tyreso in Denmark, so she has some idea of how the game differs, but the standard of English women’s football has increased significantly, even in the past two seasons.
“I think tactically [in the WSL] teams are more organised and create more of a fortress. I expect more tactical sophistication and build-up play,” she says, pointing out that it’s hard to know after only a few training sessions. “I’m looking forward to seeing if that’s right.”
The tactical differences were important in her decision to move – as well as being influenced by the influx of talent to the league that has taken place over the past year.
“Wherever the top players go, it’s always exciting to play with and against them. For me, it was really important to play in a league where it was going to be hard to win games,” says Press.
“Players want to play in leagues where it’s hard to win. You want the opportunity to win. You want to fight. You want to play for the top clubs but you also want fierce competition. You want to be playing with and against the best.”
Her move to Manchester United will also represent a new start for Press in terms of the number she plays with. Some fans were disappointed having already bought ‘Press 23’ shirts before it was revealed that she would actually be playing in 24.
“It’s not the first time in my career that I’ve been out of 23,” she says. “It actually happens every Olympics because you have to wear below 18.”
Her motivation for choosing 24 instead? “Kobe”
“I’m not someone who holds too much locker significance to a number but when I wasn’t able to wear my normal number, I definitely chose this with a little nod to Kobe.”
“The inspiration and joy he gave people by the way he played – his passion – is amazing. It’s something that as athletes that we are all striving to do.”
There is no doubt that Christen Press will be bringing her passion to Manchester United, and the WSL, this season.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph