Chelsea have been rocked by the loss of Sam Kerr to a serious knee injury but their players are determined to win a fifth-straight title for Hayes, who will leave to take over as boss of the United States women’s national team at the end of the season.
Midfielder Sophie Ingle knows more than most the legacy Hayes will leave. The 32-year-old is the only player in the Chelsea squad to pre-date Hayes, having joined in 2012 for her first of two spells at the club.
“In her speech to us [after her exit was announced], Emma was like, ‘I am committed until the end of the season and I want to win everything I can’,” says Ingle. “She is not just fobbing us off because she is moving. She is committed to the journey until the end of the season.”
Chelsea and Hayes are fighting for trophies on four fronts — in the WSL, the Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
They face United at Old Trafford on the final day of the WSL season in May, raising the prospect of them winning the title there.
Asked whether Hayes’s legacy within women’s football is similar to the mark former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson left on the men’s game, Ingle says: “That’s quite a good statement! It is not just Chelsea, she wants the whole game to improve in England.
“We know that day will come [when Emma leaves], but we hope to lift the title and for it to be a successful last season for her.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Arsenal host Everton and there is a derby between West Ham and Tottenham on Sunday. Second-placed Manchester City, three points behind Chelsea, host Liverpool on Sunday.