by Arwen Moses (26/1/23)
Above: Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner knows his team face a real battle at Championship side Sunderland this weekend. Photo: Paul Harding.
Globally, there are few cup competitions that are more prestigious than the FA Cup, and Marc Skinner’s Manchester United have their sights firmly set on it.
This weekend sees the Red Devils taking on Sunderland at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup. Following last weekend’s controversial mid-game postponement at Kingsmeadow, United remain at the top of the WSL for another week.
Unbeaten in the league since early November, Skinner’s team have been building momentum and gaining confidence. However, the fourth round of the FA Cup is infamous for producing surprising scorelines, with the larger teams being added into the pool. Sunderland, currently sitting eighth in the Championship, will be looking to to create an upset.
Manchester United have been active so far in the transfer window, with three newcomers joining the ranks. Skinner told the media yesterday that he believes bringing incoming talent into the squad improves the performance of the team, which can only be positive. “What I need our players to recognise is that you have to fight to get into this team. There is no ‘give me’. There should be no ‘give me’ in any team which is aspiring to be successful.”
When questioned about any more transfers, the Reds boss does not believe there will be any eleventh-hour action. “We are in a situation where I’m really happy with the depth that we have. If something arises I’ll never say never, because football moves so quick. Every day you have something different dropping into your inbox or a call on the phone. I’ll never say never, but at the moment it is incredibly unlikely”.
Despite their unbeaten league run, Skinner is not complacent. The Head Coach recognised that “The FA Cup is always different. A cup competition where there is a knock-out on the day is always different. There is no doubt about it; we want to win. If it’s a cup competition or a league game, we want to try and win.
The way we balance it is to focus on each game, and treat Sunderland exactly how we would have treated Reading last week, as we would have treated Liverpool the week before. For us, it’s just game business, treat every opponent like they are the best opponent you could ever play”.
Having never faced Sunderland competitively before, United staff have had to keep tabs on their opposition to understand their style of play better. However, the former Birmingham City chief has faced the Lasses before. “I’ve played Sunderland before when I was at Birmingham, so I know that team. We’ve watched their last six games and looked at the differences with what they do. We’ve had eyes on – we aren’t going into this game blind.”
Skinner has high expectations for Sunderland: “To go to the Northern teams, I don’t know if it is the people, but the grit and determination that the teams show is always admirable. We are expecting them to be extremely organised, committed, and focused, and we are going to have to beat that. We know we have the quality, but we have to earn the right. They are going to give us nothing and we have to try and earn everything”.
Due to the league being particularly close this season, every game matters. This prolonged pressure means the Red Devils are used to performing to a high standard, regardless of whether in a league or cup game.
The United boss claimed, “We know internally that we want to try and win every game, so we can’t moan about different types of pressure. It’s just there. When you wear a Manchester United badge, there is pressure every day. It really is just part of the process. The more pressure you face, the more it becomes part of your nature.
“For example, if I wasn’t here, and I woke up every day not feeling that pressure, I’d soften to not having that pressure. But now, you like it. It keeps me alive. The reality is, that we love it. It drives us every day, it drives the competitive nature in the players.”
The 2,500-capacity Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground is set to be nearly sold out for the match, and, as usual, United are set to have a large travelling support, something that does not go unnoticed by players or staff.
“Being at Reading with our fans, the stadium was red. That’s how amazing our fans are. As loud as Sunderland will be, you will hear Manchester United on Sunday. We as a fan collective are playing a big part in selling out other people’s stadiums. Long may that continue, and long may we continue to grow the fan base, because hopefully, we are giving them something that they love to watch.”
This was Arwen Moses’ debut article for Impetus. Her biography can be seen here, along with the rest of the Impetus team of contributors: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/