James Ward-Prowse and David Beckham inspire Manchester United captain Katie Zelem as she targets WSL title
Having a set-piece specialist in your ranks can sometimes be the difference between winning a trophy or not and there aren’t many better in the Women’s Super League than Katie Zelem.
The Manchester United captain is helping to spearhead the Red Devils’ title charge this season, with Marc Skinner’s side currently top of the table with five games remaining.
They also have an FA Cup Semi-Final to look forward to as well, with United taking on Brighton and Hove Albion for a place at Wembley this Saturday, in a match you can hear exclusively on talkSPORT2.
Zelem’s ability from corners and free-kicks has been key for United, with the Red Devils scoring the joint highest number of goals from set-pieces in the WSL this season with ten.
The United captain set up two of those in a 4-0 win over Brighton in the WSL recently and she has been known to score directly from corners in the past as well.
Zelem has seven assists to her name this season and has taken inspiration from two of the best set-piece takers in Premier League history to help her game.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, Zelem said: “I think we all know David Beckham had the best right foot in the world.
“Now I’m a bit older, too, I love watching James Ward-Prowse take free-kicks. I think his technique [is great] and there’s always little bits you can change and take from other people. His ratio is crazy! It’s always good to be learning, watching other people and seeing what they do.
“It’s something I’ve always practised since I was younger and it’s something that really helps us win games. We’ve scored the most from set-pieces [in the WSL this season] – that’s what they tell me anyway!
“At Arsenal, we scored a couple of set-piece goals and it helped us win the game. So, if you’re able to practice that and I’m able to give the team the extra edge and if we’re able to get that collaboration right then it definitely sets us apart from the rest.”
It has been a season full of surprises in the WSL and it is shaping up to be the closest title race ever, with three points currently separating Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City.
United’s rise from Champions League challengers to WSL leaders, though, has been one of the stories of the season, with an attractive brand of football helping the Red Devils score the highest number of goals in the league.
A big win over Arsenal at the Emirates in November highlighted United’s title credentials and Zelem says they are targeting a domestic double this season.
Asked about her wish for this season, Zelem said: “If I’m having unlimited wishes, we want to win the league and we want to win the FA Cup. At this stage of the season, we’d be daft not to be saying that.
“We knew that we had the talent in the squad, it was just about the belief. It was just that we needed to step over that next hurdle and I think beating Arsenal at the Emirates was the turning point of the season where we knew we were here to win things and not just compete.
“In previous seasons, we’ve maybe approached the big teams and we’ve been the underdogs in a sense and it’s been more like a free hit for us. But now, we don’t feel that at all.
“We go into every game expecting and wanting to win and I think it’s a totally different mentality change [not just] within individual players, but the team collectively and staff.”
United are Zelem’s childhood team, having come through the club’s youth system, and she returned to her roots when Man United relaunched their women’s side in 2018 after leaving Juventus.
In the space of five years, the 27-year-old has seen a host of changes at the club and she credits head coach Skinner for uniting the dressing room.
“It’s changed so much,” she finished.
“We talk about it all the time in the changing room. We’ve gone from training at Leigh Sports Village to being at Carrington full-time.
“When we first signed, we were obviously all so happy to be at Manchester United, but the level of professionalism now is just worlds apart from when we started five years ago.
“I think there’s no coincidence that we’re getting better every season with better facilities, better players and I think they come hand in hand.
“He [Skinner] is very thoughtful and he’s got an analogy for everything in the world! He’s a people’s person. People are happy in the dressing room and people are a squad and you can see people say from the outside, Manchester United have the team spirit of a team that’s won 100 trophies.
“The girls are always there for each other. It’s the tightest team I’ve ever been in and I think you can see that.”
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