Skinner & Zelem Speak Ahead Of United’s Big Day At Old Trafford

Holly Wright dialled into Manchester United’s media conference with Marc Skinner and Katie Zelem as the club prepare to face off against Aston Villa in front of a huge attendance at Old Trafford this weekend (1/12/22).

Marc Skinner’s Manchester United side are fully prepared for another entertaining encounter as they take on a vastly improved Aston Villa in front of what will be a record crowd at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United have lost just once in the league so far this season and will be looking to build on their stunning victory over Arsenal before the break with the luxury of a fully fit squad to choose from having had a chance to recover from the hectic schedule of the WSL.

“We have got everybody fit going into this roll of four games, which are quite tight together. It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we are competitive because that is the real driving factor. Whether it’s a win or a loss before the break it’s about us taking charge of momentum. Momentum isn’t something given to us, we have to create it. Regardless of how long the Arsenal game was, we have to take that quality into this huge game.”

Aston Villa are currently sat in fifth place in the WSL table having won their last two games and have only lost once on the road this season. They also have the luxury of defeating United already this season on penalties back in October in the Continental Cup so Skinner is fully aware of the threat they pose.

Above: Old Trafford is expected to have well over 30,000 fans inside on Saturday. Photo: Manchester Evening News.

“I think that they are progressing and investing. From the results that they have got this year, and the players that they have signed, they are putting themselves in a position to be talked about within, the realms of the best teams within the league. It’s a challenge. We know their quality and we know the progression that they are taking. This is not about anything other than putting our best efforts into this game.

“We love to play at Old Trafford, but regardless of that, it’s about performance. We did it against Arsenal. I want to see it in these big games. I want to see that consistency of taking the process to the opponent. There’s no way we are taking this lightly.”

It is set to be only the second time the Reds have had the joy of playing at the Theatre of Dreams but with the absence of the men’s Premier League currently, it’s an opportunity they are relishing. “If you meet 10 Manchester United fans, they make it sound like 10,000. It’s a perfect opportunity while the men’s World Cup is on. We understand our place in terms of the growth of the game. We want to get to a stage where we sell out as a team regardless of gender at Old Trafford, and that is what we are working towards.”

Skinner added, “I think it’s okay to work towards it and not expect it to be in this moment, right this second. It’s a continuous working project. We have got to keep showing the fans that are actually against us, and we did a world of good to show them the qualities that we can have against a very, very good team. If you don’t put a good spectacle on why would people want to come and watch it?”

“Our fans will come out in their hordes to support our team and we all have a responsibility to grow the game. We just want to keep putting great games on so we can fill out the Theatre of Dreams going forward. That’s the ultimate aim for us for sure.”

Marc Skinner, Manchester United head coach.
Above: Katie Zelem – playing at Old Trafford is a dream come true for her. Photo: Manchester United.

Katie Zelem spoke of the excitement building ahead of this weekend’s game. “Being from Manchester supporting Manchester United it’s amazing to play at Old Trafford I think one of the best stadiums in world football so we are all excited for that. There is no bigger advertisement for women’s football than to be playing at a huge stadium with a great atmosphere.

“It’s not my job to be convincing anyone to come I think our past results and how we perform is what people should want to come and watch. Especially after the Arsenal game we have showed what we are all about and the star performances we can put on, so we’re hoping see as many fans as possible.”

Zelem narrowly missed out on the cut for the summer Euros but the United captain is determined to use that negative to make her a better player. “It was a difficult moment for me. I went to all the prep camps with England and to find out I wasn’t selected was tough to take. I think it’s something that’s really spurred me on for this season. Wanting to do my best and prove a point. I think everyone has ups and downs in football. And that was certainly one of mine that I want to build on.”

A very close friend of Zelem is Rachel Daly who will be on the opposing team this weekend, and the United star knows exactly what to expect on Saturday: “I think we all know each other’s qualities. She showed them in the NWSL and she is very versatile. She can play a range of positions, whether it’s at the back for England or in the nine for Villa and that is something that we especially need to look out for at the weekend.”

In terms of what the midfielder believes her team needs to do in order to maintain their winning run, she said: “We pride ourselves on keeping possession, keeping the ball, and building our attacks. At Old Trafford that will be vitally important. We know that Villa will try and catch us on the break, and they have got a lot of attacking threat.”

Manchester United vs Aston Villa will take place on Saturday 3rd December with kick-off at 12.30pm. The match is live on Sky Sports Main Event from 11:30am. Tickets remain available and can be purchased online from the club’s website.

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