Skinner On United’s Clash With Chelsea: “It’s Like A Heavyweight Boxing Match”

Holly Wright was in Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner‘s media conference ahead of today’s huge game with Chelsea and heard him outline why he believes things will be different this season (6/11/22).

Above: Manchester United boss Marc Skinner. Photo: Martin Rickett.

Manchester United have had a perfect start to the WSL campaign so far and are yet to concede a goal, but their first major test of the season comes against the defending champions Chelsea today.

Head coach Marc Skinner is looking forward to the clash and is confident his team can get a result from this game.

“The girls have been brilliant so far. To score 14 and keep clean sheets in every one is credit to them. The whole squad. The whole staff. These games you should enjoy, and we have to be very clear and be confident not complacent which is the key message here.

“We know how good Chelsea have been. Historically they are the best team in this league. We have respect for them but it’s about making sure we impose ourselves on this game like we know we can.”

Two of the joint three top highest goal scorers will be on show this weekend with United, Arsenal, and Chelsea having contributed to 45 out of the 99 goals scored in the WSL so far this season an open and attacking game from both teams is expected.

“The defences of both teams are going to be tested,” Skinner observed, “and these are the types of games where we have to make this into a mature performance. What that means is we have to break at the right times. Score at the right times. Have possession at the right times and show that real maturity because if you can try in games like this to have as much control as possible although how difficult that is you have the best chance of getting results. The attacking quality that is on show makes it promise to have goals.”

After a strong 3-0 win against Everton last weekend with three different scorers on the score sheet, United go into today’s game with a different type of preparation as they face a tougher opponent in terms of the quality and dangers, they can cause Skinner’s side.

“Its like a heavyweight boxing match if you duck your guard for one moment you can be knocked out and that’s the reality of playing against a team like this, and hopefully, they will feel the same against us that if they give us a moment, we can take it.”

Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner on the threat posed by Chelsea.

“It’s about finding the rhythm of the game. Trying to disrupt their rhythm when they have possession, but I know for sure resilience is going to be key in this game. Energy and resilience are going to be key for us to take a positive result.

Skinner will have the luxury of a strong squad to choose from and could possibly be boosted by the return of Ona Battle who hasn’t featured since the 4-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion early this season due to concussion whilst Aiofe Mannion is also close to returning after rupturing her ACL way back in March of this year.

“Ona has trained again with the squad on the edges of the training session today. She has gone through all her fitness aspects that she needs to do. She’s looking positive and only really now Aiofe who is gearing up time to ramp up what she is doing now so we are in a really good space with the squad.”

Players in good form is a great position to be in for any manager, but the focus is on showing progress since the last two sides met last season in a game where Chelsea ran out victorious in a 4-2 win and with it retained the WSL title.

“More importantly we have got players that can come into the game and make a difference which I don’t believe we had last year. Nothing to do with the quality of the player, more to do with the experience of certain moments. The reason they are performing so well is that they know behind them is someone that is ready to take their place or at least to put pressure on them for that place. What I love about this team is they are willing to give to each other. They are willing to perform for each other and that’s what I want to build here. A team that is collective from goalkeeper all the way through to the forwards and the players coming in will make a key difference.

“We aspire to be that title challengers. We like to be talked about in that space but I’m a big believer in evidence of that. We want to be talked about up there, but we have to earn that right. We have a lot more to do. We want to win things. “Sometimes you have to take those punches to know where you’re at. We’re a different team now but I want us to show that. It’s all well and good me talking about that here but I want my team to show their maturity in this game.”

Above: Alessia Russo in training ahead of today’s big game with Chelsea. Photo: Manchester Untied Women.

This WSL season is proving to be one of great unpredictability with some shock results already this campaign. It is too early in the season to suggest this game will decide anything yet but could go a long way in determine who will be title contenders come the end of the season. Skinner recognises this.

“This game is huge. It’s important in these games we stamp our level of maturity and progression, and we see that. I don’t want to say we are just looking for the performance in these games you’ve got to find a way to get the result which is probably the most difficult task. We have to be ready, and we have to give absolutely everything. In moments we are going to have a bit of luck, but I want us to be prepared for that. I want to see that growth in the psychology in managing moments because its not going to be as smooth as we would like it to be. We have to be aggressive and ready to take our moments when they come.”

Ticket sales have been excellent with 8,000 already being sold for this highly anticipated fixture. “United fans are the best. Honestly, I’ve watched a lot of football but in women’s football specifically, the crowds that we get are firing and we are going to need them. This is a tough tough game, and we are going to need them to make sure they are the 12th player and get right behind us. I ask that every week, but they always deliver that.

“With a potential 8,000 possibly more that’s like another 8,00 voices that is going to help lift us when we need it. What I need from them is energy and a spark to get right behind us and I’m looking forward to them helping try and get the result for us.”

Lastly, a huge topic around the WSL in recent weeks is the decision for teams to move away from white shorts to aid women’s individuality whilst on their menstrual cycle, and this is something United as a club will be looking to implement in the future and a decision that Skinner is 100% behind. “It is a huge area. We need our players to feel comfortable to perform. We are absolutely in discussions to do that. I’m absolutely certain that it will happen.”

To hear the opposition view, Impetus’ Nathan Edwards was in Chelsea General Manager Paul Green’s media conference:

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