Just the ticket: Ella Toone splashes for England’s opener at Old Trafford | England women’s football team

The dream is almost over. Ella Toone, player and Manchester United fan, bought the extra 24 tickets for her family and friends and maintained her superb form to fight her way into the race as one of Sarina Wiegman’s game changers. Now she just has to show up at Old Trafford on Wednesday and, come or go, do her thing. She will feel at home, after all.

England take on Austria in the opening match of the biggest European Women’s Championship to date. The Tyldesley-born playmaker admits she fantasizes celebrating the score with a knee slip past the Stretford End but now that reality is approaching with the Lionesses traveling from their Staffordshire training base to Manchester on Monday, Toone is finds to live serenely the moment.

“Leaving for England at our home Euros, opening the tournament at Old Trafford, is going to be amazing,” she said. “For me, it’s just excitement. I am so proud to be able to go there and represent England in a major tournament at my stadium. I just can’t wait.

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder has played at Old Trafford twice – behind closed doors against West Ham in March 2021, then in front of 20,241 for visiting Everton 12 months later – but opening a major tournament in front of a capacity of 74,120 spectators at the stadium where she goes to cheer on her team on her days off might blow some minds.

“You have to take advantage of those moments because they don’t come around often,” Toone said. “We sold Old Trafford; we play for England in our home euros. These are once in a lifetime things. I played it but it’s gonna be totally different [with] many more fans. There may be a few nerves, but the most important thing is that we go out there and enjoy every moment.

Ella Toon

England are among the favorites to win this tournament, especially under the soothing guidance of Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch coach who led her nation to home glory at the last Euros, but their players are delighted. They are professional, well-paid and used to the perks of life as internationals, but there is no global weariness when discussing their football.

Toone, who was at United for eight years as a girl before returning when she turned professional four years ago after spells at Blackburn and Manchester City, enjoys watching her club play in the Premier League when times allow.

“I try to get in as many matches as possible,” she says. “I started going to away games now too. I love to go and support; It’s been a part of me since I was little. We get tickets for home games if we don’t practice. I have a little source at the club sorting out my away tickets for me but I don’t tell any of the girls because that’s just me.

Manchester United number 7 Ella Toone shoots at Old Trafford against Everton in March. The stadium will be full on Wednesday. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Being the local girl inevitably brought some requests for tickets to this game. “My uncle bought a box with eight of them, I bought a box for my dad, so there are eight in it. I got four [complimentary tickets] and then I bought 16 so there are many of us.

Toone, one of three United players in the England squad along with Alessia Russo and Mary Earps, scored her 11th goal in her 14th international appearance in the recent 5-1 defeat of the Netherlands. She is competing with Fran Kirby and Georgia Stanway for the No.10 role, assuming Wiegman stays with the midfield double pivot.

“I think we all bring different things,” Toone said, with an eye for a slide rule pass or a run past the striker. “That’s why it’s such an exciting team with a lot of talent… We just have to be ready for our time and go out there and shake things up.”

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