Manchester United Women confirmed as champions ahead of promotion to Women's Super League
Manchester United Women were crowned champions of the Women's Championship on Saturday after a 7-0 win against Crystal Palace.
Lauren James scored four and further strikes from Lizzie Arnot, Leah Galton and Jess Sigsworth were enough to confirm United as title winners, with Casey Stoney's side set to play in the Women's Super League (WSL) next season.
United secured promotion with three games to spare after beating Aston Villa 5-0 on Wednesday, and Saturday's title celebration was the latest landmark in what has been a superb season.
Stoney's team have won 16 of their 18 matches, drawing one and losing one, on their way to promotion as champions to the top flight. United also reached the League Cup semifinals and FA Cup last eight.
Speaking after the promotion was secured, United men's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "I watched the highlights of course and follow them a bit and it's great for the club to get promoted -- that gives everyone a boost. The staff here at Carrington. The players are tweeting: good stuff on social media, that's a rarity at the moment. It's fantastic to see the celebrations so it's onwards and upwards for them for next year."
The club have made a return to women's football after a 13-year absence and are a full-time outfit, playing football in the part-time Championship. They travel to Millwall on April 28 before ending the season against Lewes on May 11.
Stoney has previously defended the club's status, saying: "We're full-time, I do appreciate that, and all the other teams aren't, but I actually think it was a sensible decision by the club to go the way we've gone.
"Because let's be honest, we didn't know what we were going to be able to recruit in a very, very short space of time. We had three weeks to build a team, put staff in place and get everything in place. We never knew what was going to be able to happen to do that. We're a very young team and we're still growing. People criticise us, but half of our squad is WSL 2 players. It's not as if they're playing in a league dropping down. I don't ever feel bad."
After securing promotion, United must apply for a licence to play in the WSL, although that is expected to be a formality. Following the World Cup this summer, United will play in the WSL with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.