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Marc Skinner is ‘on fire’ after Man Utd ended a rollercoaster season with a record defeat

A week is a long time in football, and Manchester United went from lifting the FA Women’s Cup at Wembley to suffering their biggest ever defeat when Chelsea claimed the WSL title at Old Trafford in just six days.

The 2023/24 campaign has been tough for United. The pursuit of major silverware eluded them until their (real) day in the sun last weekend, when a 4-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur brought first success at this level.

Winning a title like this is what has driven the club since day one in 2018. But it was cut short due to the disappointment of the WSL season which saw it slip a year ago when the domestic league and two cups were played. in painful access.

Ultimately, United finished 21 points worse in the WSL this season than they did 12 months ago. They won eight fewer league games, lost another five, took just 18 points against the recognized ‘big three’, conceded three goals and found the net 14 times. Even in defeat, United tend to perform well in patches or small moments, but consistency is a big let-down, seemingly losing that strong focus that propelled them to one of the biggest points in the WSL last term.

United couldn’t really build on that, having to rebuild successfully last summer.

The departure of two key players hurt them, and there was a big change in the wide squad with nine new arrivals. Almost all of the new signings have dealt with injury or fitness issues at one point or another – more than usual, when assistant coach Martin Ho left in June and was not replaced for several months. Other personnel changes, notably coach Ibrahim Kerem’s move to the men’s team, have not helped matters, while head of women’s football Polly Bancroft is now stepping down without a permanent replacement. Until now, the new INEOS group is yet to sink its teeth into tackling the issues that will keep United competitive, having seen its takeover approved in February.

There is a lot of work to be done, something Marc Skinner did not hesitate to admit at his final post-season press conference after the Chelsea game, where Sir Dave Brailsford and outgoing chief executive Omar Berrada were both present at Old. Trafford director’s box. They will not tear it up to start over, choosing evolution over revolution.

To that end, Skinner was awarded a new contract, announced 24 hours before Saturday’s heavy defeat. It is not, as he later said, a knee-jerk response to winning the FA Cup. Although United are struggling to replicate their 2022/23 league form, the focus has been on the bigger picture and talks have been ongoing for some time. The deal was agreed “temporarily” before it went public.

Man Utd were humiliated by Chelsea at Old Trafford

Man Utd humiliated by Chelsea at Old Trafford / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

“Time” is the main thing Skinner asks for. Time to catch up, time to find compromise.

“I have to go and think about what we have to do as a team,” he said as he hit the summer song. “I need to work with the team to make sure we know those areas. I’ve known for a while where we’re lacking, but there’s also a time when you need to be able to improve those areas.”

There is an irreverence and a “fire” about him, fueled by the kind of convincing beatings United want to compete against.

“There will be players in that dressing room like me who are on fire in situations like this, don’t run and hide,” said Skinner. “These are the players we need to continue working for success with Manchester United. If you lose, you have to stand up because sports are about being strong. Learning and moving forward, not just giving up because it’s not what you want. My mindset will never be that and our players will never be like that.”

Having Chelsea enjoy that success right under their noses will serve as direct motivation as well, with Skinner making it a point to watch for a few minutes as Emma Hayes and her players cheered wildly in the corner of the Old Trafford pitch.

“We are a team chasing those successes,” he said “You have to face them when you lose 6-0 at home. I am facing it and I will do it. It is important that we as a team. The group continues to take steps towards where Chelsea are. It is possible. But I believe in myself that I can do it. and I believe in this team and this team to put us where we want to be.”

Meanwhile, there are four long months until the 2024/25 WSL season kicks off in September. But the talking will have to be done on the field soon.


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