Supporting and inspiring the next generation of players seems to be something you’re quite passionate about. How important is it to support the club’s academy players?
LG: I was talking about this with Rachel (Williams) the other day, funnily enough. We’ve got five academy players with us on this Malta trip, and that’s great!
They’re quite quiet because they’ve just come up (to the first team) but we want to create an environment where they can be themselves and they can talk to us; we don’t want them sitting on another table away from us for example - nobody is like that here! I want the kids to feel comfortable and like they’re a part of the squad because they are the future of the club.
We’d like to know a little more about how they play, what formation they use - things like that. So when they do come and play with us, we’ve got more of an understanding and that should help with their transition.
Speaking of young players…Melvine, you’re only 23-years-old and have already won the Champions League four times. You basically conquered French football with Lyon! What are your ambitions moving forward?
Melvine Malard: I have quite a few ambitions. When it comes to the Champions League, we might not have gotten as far in the competition as we’d hoped to this season, but we always keep in mind the need to progress. There are trophies still to be won after all. I want to have my name be recognised here in England, so I want to score as many goals as possible for this club.
You’ve made sure to move in order to achieve those ambitions too. That isn’t always an easy decision to make.
MM: I’m not afraid to leave a place in order to progress and pursue my ambitions. I grew up in Reunion, I left to play in France. I left France to play in England. I’m not scared to go on those journeys. I like to try new things and succeed where I can.
At times it’s quite scary, or the thought of moving is but when you have a goal in mind, you have to do it. It’s difficult going from country to country, team to team. But you grow with those changes.
That’s something you've also experienced having moved from Brazil to Spain, and now England, Geyse. You’re currently one of the few Brazilian footballers in the league right now. Would you like to see more South American players in the WSL?
Geyse: Definitely! While I’m the first here (at Manchester United Women) I think other players have played in the league such as Rafaelle Souza - the former Arsenal player.
I think English teams should give more opportunities to Brazilian and South American footballers, 100%. I think our football is good enough for here and we ought to get more opportunities in the English league. I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll see more clubs looking to scout players in countries outside of Europe.
It’s a new year, and we’ve already spoken about things you’d like to achieve moving forward. What are some of the future changes you’d like to see in women’s football?
LG: There needs to be continued investment into researching ACL injuries amongst women who play football. When someone goes down on the pitch, you automatically assume the worst. Whether it’s overloading - us playing too many games in a short space of time - or whatever else. More needs to be done to understand why this is happening to so many players.
I’ve also been thinking about my future after playing. I want to somehow play a role in inspiring and supporting the next generation of players wanting to become professional. I can remember a teacher telling me I couldn't play football as a job, and if anyone else is told that, I want to make sure they’ve got what they need to pursue a career in football.
Another change many have been calling for in women’s football is more visible ethnic diversity at both club and international levels.
The French national team - and a lot of Division 1 Féminine sides - are more diverse compared to their English counterparts. Melvine, why is representation in football so important?
MM: I think it’s super important to the development of football. On the one hand, it shows there is a genuine care and desire to ‘share’ the game by making sure everyone can play it. And having a diverse team means that everyone can bring something different to the squad, the environment, the atmosphere. It’s true that the French national team is more diverse compared to others, and that’s great. But there is still a lot of progress to be made, especially for women’s football.
It’s officially been announced that your final game of the season will be against Chelsea at Old Trafford. When it comes to attendance figures, United have been paving the way. Why do you think that is? Obviously you play a big factor!
LG: Yeah, I take my 30 family members to every match day! I think it’s because of the name. We’ve got a strong fanbase, but the name ‘Manchester United’. I meet a lot of kids and they might not know me as a player but when they find out I play for United, they’re so excited. It’s one of the most popular clubs in the world - even in Malta! We’ve got loads of fans here, and I would never have thought that. The club also markets the games in advance really well. The ground is an iconic one too, it’s a place people are drawn to. And who wouldn’t want to sit in the rainy weather in Manchester?
What did you think of the fixture announcement Geyse?
G: I’m looking forward to it! I think we’ve got to have a totally different mentality compared to when we played against City. We’ve got to keep our focus against Chelsea and end the season with a victory.
Tickets are available to purchase now for Manchester United’s upcoming fixture against Chelsea on May 18, 2024.
Photography: Lily Brown
Styling: Emelia Gayner
Interview: Amie Cripps