Manchester United under-21 captain Poppy Lawson has left the club to begin her professional career with Hibernian north of the border in Scotland.
Lawson skippered United’s Under-21 side to a WSL Academy league and cup double in 2021/22.
But despite the first-team squad’s lack of depth in the centre of defence, her immediate future lies away from the club as she attempts to establish herself in senior football.
“To sign my first professional contract with a club like Hibs is really exciting,” Lawson told Hibernian’s official club website. “Dean [Gibson] and his staff are putting everything in place for us to compete for titles and silverware and I can’t wait to join the Hibernian family.”
Lawson is not the only member of United’s heavily decorated youth squad to depart the club in search of senior football elsewhere, with Karna Solskjaer having already joined AaFK Fortuna in Norway.
“We are responsible for making sure they can play at the highest level they can – whether that’s our first team or others,” academy coach Charlotte Healy told BBC Sport in March, explaining that the development process goes far beyond the football itself.
“We don’t hang our success just on trophies or how many break into the first team,” Healy added. “We want them to look back on the academy in five years or so and say it had a massive benefit on their life.”
First-team boss Marc Skinner spoke during the season about the difficulty in preparing academy players for senior football because of the significant jump between the levels, although the long-term ideal is that United will be able to recruit for the first-team from the academy.
“It’s such a big gulf and we’re working so hard, whether that’s experience and training with us, pre-season with the first-team – all the different things that can help them bridge the gap,” he said.
“What you have seen is a wonderful base talent. If we can recruit from our academy, that would be the ideal for me. Realistically, you can’t put all of them in at this moment.
“What Charlotte does, as the club always has done, is try to produce an education programme…whether that’s football or off the field.
“That’s only going to grow as we continue to invest more and design that. Manchester United really is a unique club where this is something really special to us, especially if they come from within. It becomes part of this wonderful aspect of our club.”