From working at the local butchers to washing the kits at Manchester City, Abbie McManus would have done anything to become a professional footballer, writes Ella Jerman.
One glance at her résumé now and you’d never believe McManus had ever had such hardships, the defender having played on both the red and blue sides of Manchester in the top-flight as well as featuring for England at this summer’s World Cup in France.
But her journey to the upper echelons of women’s football wasn’t all plain sailing. When told she didn’t have a future in the professional women’s game, McManus refused to throw in the towel.
“When Manchester City Women went professional in 2014, I was told I wasn’t good enough and I was no longer on the books,” she said.
“That was when I realised the meaning of the saying you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
“Not long after, Nick Cushing came in as manager and the team had a few injuries in the back-line, so my friends told me to give him a ring.
“I must have left him about 76 missed calls until he finally answered, and he said there’s no budget left. You can come down and train with us and if you’re good enough, I’ll sign you on.
“It took me a year to get signed on and I worked part-time in the local butchers as well as becoming the club’s kit woman to pay my bills before I became professional.
"On my days off I was in the market nine until five. If we were on a short day, say half eight until one at football, I would go and clear up afterwards from one until six.
“It was tough to juggle, but I knew football was something that I loved and wanted to do.”
Fast forward five years and McManus has won a Women’s Super League title and two FA Cups with City before crossing the Manchester divide to play for the newly-promoted Red Devils, the club she has supported her whole life.
An established centre-back for both club and country, McManus made her United debut in front of over 30,000 fans at the Etihad in September before being part of the Lionesses squad who brought 77,768 fans to Wembley this month.
The story has all the makings of a fairytale, but McManus isn’t ready to forget where she came from.
“Even now, I go back and work in the butchers over the Christmas period,” she added.
“I always keep my journey in the back of my mind and I always want to prove people wrong. It keeps me grounded and humble.
“It sounds daft, but I’d never want to change the route I had. It definitely made me want to work harder and prove myself more.”
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