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Triumph and Optimism: Manchester United’s Aoife Mannion Eyes Euro 2025 Qualification with Ireland

Following a triumphant conclusion to the club season, a Manchester United player is feeling optimistic as the Republic of Ireland gears up for two pivotal Euro 2025 qualifiers.

Aoife Mannion finds it hard to remember the last time she won a trophy before Manchester United’s recent FA Cup final victory over Spurs. “The girls were all teasing me,” she says. “It was my first in about a decade. The last one was some kind of FA Cup shield or something with Aston Villa. I can’t even remember the exact name, but it was a regional trophy of some sort.”

The win at Wembley marked a significant upgrade in silverware, with United clinching the FA Cup for the first time in their history in front of a crowd of 76,000. By the time Mannion stepped off the bench to play the final 12 minutes, the team was already leading 4-0. Job done.

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“It was phenomenal, an absolutely amazing experience. And when the boys accomplished it too, the sense of pride was immense. It was a truly extraordinary moment for me, my family, and my friends. Around 25 people came over from Ireland, including a school from Ballinrobe. We know one of the teachers there, and she always brings the students to the games. They’ve visited the Aviva and even watched us at the Emirates when we played Arsenal. They always carry the same banner, so I spotted it at Wembley and knew exactly where my family was sitting. It’s not like it used to be a decade ago when you could easily recognize faces in the crowd.”

For the 28-year-old defender, it was a triumphant end to yet another season plagued by injuries, where she managed only four league appearances for United. A knee injury had already sidelined her from the World Cup, and then a quad tear in September kept her out until February. Having endured two anterior cruciate ligament injuries in her career, she was no stranger to long stints in recovery.

Did the dream of moments like the FA Cup final keep her motivated? “Absolutely, it’s crazy to think about—there have been some really low points, but also incredible highs. Once my career is over, I’ll reflect on it all and decide what was worth it. The FA Cup is now just a memory, and I’m eager to chase that feeling again.”

She has made the most of her time away from the game, earning her Uefa B coaching license. Now, she’s among 17 current or former players selected for the inaugural all-female Uefa A license course. This 12-month program, which started last week, includes notable figures like Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead, Kim Little, Lia Wälti, and Steph Houghton. It also features Chelsea’s Swedish goalkeeper Zećira Mušović, whom Mannion hopes Ireland can challenge in their upcoming matches. “We exchanged a few pleasant words as we left, like ‘see you in a few days,’” she says with a laugh.

While coaching might be in her future, her current focus is on playing. Since making her debut under Vera Pauw in February last year, she has only added four more caps due to a streak of bad luck. However, Eileen Gleeson’s high regard for her was evident when she started against both France and England in the opening games of Ireland’s Euro 2025 qualifying campaign last month, not in her usual center-back position, but as a left and right wing-back.

“I don’t mind where I play; I’ll give it my all in any position. My versatility is an asset for the team, and I’m ready to help wherever needed.”

Although Ireland lost to France (0-1) and England (0-2), Mannion sees positives. She believes these experiences boost their confidence for Friday’s game against Sweden at the Aviva Stadium and the return match in Stockholm next Tuesday.

“We played well for large parts of those games. The narrow scorelines, especially our strong second half against England, showed our potential. Our goal now is to maintain that balance for a full 90 minutes. It’s challenging against top teams, but we’ve learned a lot. Hopefully, we can apply those lessons against Sweden, recognizing they are one of the world’s best teams.”

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