Manchester United Women manager Casey Stoney is “deeply sorry” after some of her players travelled to Dubai during the winter break, but confirmed there have been no positive coronavirus cases at the club.
United’s game at Everton on Sunday has been postponed due to their opponents being unable to field a squad due to recent COVID-19 infections and injuries.
Arsenal’s trip to Aston Villa, alongside Manchester City’s home clash with West Ham and their Continental League Cup quarter-final tie against Chelsea, were all postponed following positive cases at Arsenal and City after it was reported a number of players visited Dubai on a “business trip” in recent days.
Stoney confirmed some of her squad had gone to the United Arab Emirates during the Christmas break, although she did not reveal how many travelled.
“I said before Christmas that I will always take my players wellbeing into consideration,” she said, “and I granted permission for my players to go home and see family, and to go away and have a break.
“We felt we were making an informed decision but on reflection it wasn’t a good decision and I’ll admit that.
“I’m sincerely sorry for that because the buck stops and starts with me, and I’m responsible for that.
“But I’m not going to single out players and crucify them; at the end of the day it was a club decision and unfortunately it wasn’t the right one.
“I’ve made an error and I’ll look into it deeply and the impact it’s had on people and the reaction that it’s caused, and I’m deeply, deeply sorry for that.
“I expect my players to stick within government guidelines and club protocols, and our club protocols have been more stringent than government guidelines for a long time, which has taken a huge toll on our players.
“Anybody that is deemed to be breaking club protocols or government guidelines I take very seriously and I will deal with internally.”
United’s trip to Everton this weekend has been postponed after Willie Kirk’s side were unable to field a squad due to recent COVID-19 infections and injuries.
An Everton statement read: “Five members of the Everton Women squad contracted coronavirus between Christmas and New Year. While those players returned to training this week – and the rest of Willie Kirk’s squad tested negative – Club medical staff confirmed this morning the five players are unable to be passed fit to play this weekend.
“With five Women’s players also out injured, another member of the squad was confirmed to have suffered a stress fracture following a scan this morning, leaving Everton Women with only 13 players available for the game against Manchester United.”
Stoney said of the postponement: “I find it fascinating that I’ve read an interview from Willie Kirk that they didn’t have any positive tests, but yet our game’s been called off, so I’m confused.
“Maybe I don’t know the rules properly, because I don’t know how you can do an interview saying that you’ve got no negative tests and everybody’s done everything right over Christmas, but then you call the game off because of COVID, so I’m just genuinely confused.
“It’s not an easy time for the FA but there has to be a level of consistency and there has to be consequence.”