Held to a 1-1 draw by Paris Saint-Germain at Leigh Sports Village last Tuesday, Manchester United find themselves in good stead ahead of the second leg of their UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying tie.
But while the Red Devils recorded a solid point against a buoyant Leicester City side on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain’s domestic fixture was abandoned after fireworks were launched onto the pitch – and travelling fans have been warned to avoid wearing club colours around the city.
Manchester United were dealt a heavy blow against the Foxes, with Gabby George forced to hobble off after sustaining a serious knee injury. ‘It’s an ACL,’ said Skinner, ‘of course there are different degrees to ACLs. I think she’s going in today for an op, so we’re looking at that. I’d always put twelve months on an ACL and then we can work back from that. If you put it too early then there’s a rush to get back but if you put twelve months on and cut backwards, I think if we prepare for that, that’s sensible.’Embed from Getty Images
‘It’s a horrific injury for a footballer… I spoke to her the day of [the injury], yesterday and this morning and she’s in good spirits even as the news hits her. What I can promise her once she’s had the op and she comes back in, she’ll get love and support.’
But when attention turned to Wednesday’s clash against Paris Saint-Germain, Marc Skinner displayed a remarkable confidence as he addressed the press, speaking of how his team have ‘the experience to go into big stadiums and play football. What I’ll say is it’s going to be an exciting game because Paris Saint-Germain will attack us.’
‘We can play extremely well and get through but unless we win it, we’re still in the hardest league in Europe to get back into it next year,’ he added, ‘if we do progress then we want to go and give it our best chance.’
This decisive European clash comes just a matter of days since United’s most recent Barclays Women’s Super League fixture, but Skinner was keen not to make any pre-emptive excuses. When asked if the league could have helped his side’s chances of progression by playing the Leicester City match a day earlier, Skinner’s answer was simple.
‘That would be me trying to find an excuse before we go into an event so I’m not going to do that. I’m gonna be fully focused on exacting a game plan, trying to make sure that we’re in the very best mindset going into this game. We’re probably going through what Chelsea and Arsenal went through last year and so on, so I can’t really complain right now, we’ve just got to get on with the task in hand.’
But the Manchester United boss added that come kickoff on Wednesday, he will be blocking out any emotions. He adds that ‘it’s a sad part of the job – you just have to treat it like business. So it’ll be wonderful to be in that environment and play a top team in front of their fans. There’s always those little romantic things you feel but I’ll be fully focused on trying to win the game. When you’re under pressure to do your job, you just get into the zone because you have to.’Embed from Getty Images
He refutes the idea that his team are favourites though, preferring to say that the players feel ‘confident in our own ability. I think that’s different. If you go in as favourites and you think you’re favourites, you adapt slightly differently. Our players are very aware of their own capabilities and they believe in themselves and they should – I think that’s a different mindset.’
Yet there is one line that will undoubtedly instil confidence in Manchester United fans ahead of this qualifying decider – ‘I don’t think this team fears anyone.’
Manchester United’s second-leg kicks off at 19:00 BST on Wednesday, 18 October – with the match broadcast live on MUTV for paying subscribers.