Emma Hayes has never been prouder of her Chelsea team after guiding them to a third-successive Women’s Super League title at the end of a gruelling campaign which saw everybody play their part.

The Blues fought back to come from behind and beat Manchester United 4-2 at Kingsmeadow on the last day of the season, ensuring the WSL trophy will be staying in west London for another year.

That dramatic last day summed up a challenging season perfectly, as Hayes’ side once again overcame adversity to be crowned champions. Having seen her squad bounce back to claim the title at the end of an injury-ravaged 2021/22, our manager could take special satisfaction in the way our triumph was achieved, even if it was by a narrow margin on this occasion.

‘I knew on the opening day of the season, be happy with our win but this is not where you win leagues,’ explained Hayes. ‘I know you win it on the back stretch. However, I know you can’t lose more than two games in this league and you certainly cannot draw four games.

‘We’re title winners because we’ve won enough games for us to be at this place, but we’ve done it from a difficult place. In January we were down to 13 or 14 players, tops, for about eight games. For me, that eight-game stretch is where the title was won.

‘We’ve gone up against a better league and team, Arsenal, who to be fair have had minimal injuries this year. I’ve never known injuries like we’ve had this year.

‘We had bare bones at some points and we won when we were at our bare bones. For that reason it’s the proudest one because it meant everybody stepped up, no-one was a passenger.’

Hayes went on to explain she feels that ability to bounce back is one of her team’s strongest qualities, although she admits to being far from happy with our first-half performance before two substitutions helped change the game completely after the break.

‘I think no matter what we do in terms of the team we put out or the tactics we set out, the team has the ability when something doesn’t go well to overcome it.

‘We didn’t carry out the game plan at all in the first half. We couldn’t pass the ball, let alone win the first and second ball. I nearly changed it after 30 minutes but I thought we’d see if we could try to solve it in the existing situation. I don’t panic, it’s not in my nature.

‘I felt strongly that we needed Ji and Beth to come into the game and for Erin to sit a little bit deeper, let Ji run things a little bit higher and have someone play alongside Sam. The way Hannah Blundell was pressing our wide players, I felt the space was in behind, so going with two forwards we could actually exploit that space.

‘I thought we did that better and it stretched the game out a little bit. It was a good response from the dressing room. It was about taking the team from fearing the loss – which we did too much in the first half and it makes you look tired and drained – to being excited that if we win, we win the league.’

Also crucial to the second-half turnaround which sealed another WSL title for Hayes and Chelsea was the contribution of Sam Kerr, who got her name on the scoresheet with a brace of fine goals, with the second in particular catching the eye from the Golden Boot winner.

‘She was decisive in the main moments,’ said Hayes. ‘I don’t know what words I could use to sum her up, apart from being the best babysitter in the world! She knows she can cope with these situations and deliver when it really matters.

‘She was enjoying herself in the second half and never in my career have I been in a situation when a game is tight at 2-2 and a player has run over and said “today is our destiny”. I thought “we’re not winning yet” but that’s confidence.

‘Her second goal was world class. It was outrageous, audacious. She’s the best for a reason and she stepped up once again for this football club. We told her if she came to play for Chelsea she would win trophies and I can sit here confident that we both made the right decision and we’re both made for Chelsea, we both love days like today.’