Ella Toone is ‘exactly where I need her to be,’ says Manchester United’s Marc Skinner

Ella Toone has become a household name in English football over recent years, with the 24 year-old midfielder quick to become a crowd favourite after her immense individual campaign at last summer’s European Championships.

But for Manchester United fans, Toone has been at the centre of their club’s culture for far longer. Growing up a Red, Toone signed with the club in its inaugural campaign and has since become a staple presence for the Red Devils.

As the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League season commenced, questions began to be raised surrounding Toone’s form, as the midfielder had not made the league scoresheet since November 2022. As a result, many began to ask questions of Marc Skinner amid alleged favouritism within his squad.

Recent weeks have seen Toone return to top form though, picking up a goal and two assists in Manchester United’s recent two fixtures in the WSL. Manchester United’s statement 0-4 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend saw Toone pick up the Barclays Player of the Match award, after what was an emphatic display from the midfielder. When asked the question of her resurgent form, Skinner responded to the recent questions that have been asked of Toone.

‘If you know Ella, she’s one of these players that she almost sometimes doesn’t smile enough because she’s got so much pressure on her shoulders. And again, not from outside but from herself. She has really high expectations for herself, in training she’s so competitive,’ he explained.

‘That’s a part of her driving spirit and why she is the player that she is at this level. For me I think it sometimes about releasing moments and releasing bits of pressure, and just reminding her that you’ve got to keep learning.’

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Having represented both Team GB and England on the world stage for three consecutive summers between 2021 and 2023, much like her fellow national team teammates, Toone has faced three calendar years of non-stop performance. When speaking to the media, Skinner expressed the important role that having a preseason plays in the development of an athlete – a luxury that Toone has not been afforded as of late.

‘[Toone] hasn’t done a preseason properly in the last three or four years, like all the Lionesses right. That’s a great time to really kind of do a little project about improving parts of your game, but she’s not had that luxury. So you have to fix it whilst you’re trying to play three games a week.’

‘Limited time on the field means you can’t fix it, so the biggest learning point she’s had so far this year is just about releasing that pressure on herself. You know, she’s already got that immense pressure, she already feels it from her, so just give herself a little bit of break and keep her game simple at times. She’s right exactly where I need her to be and she’s going to continue to grow.’

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Skinner also reflected on Toone’s 2023/24 campaign thus far, confidently supporting her impressive trot in the Barclays Women’s Super League in recent weeks.

‘I looked at her stats yesterday, and again, for the people that have said she’s not this she’s not that, we all know that we all have to make up news stories to feed interest, to keep the industry moving. But the reality is, she’s been excellent.’

‘We judge Ella by a different yard stick to everybody else, that she’s got to complete every dribble at a hundred percent and she’s got to score goals. She assists the assist quite often, her space is occupying the opponents so we can exploit somewhere else. I’m a huge fan of hers and I always have been so, I’ll continue to do my job which is to give her the platform to perform.’

‘The one thing she has never done is dip below her attitude levels to perform, and that’s when a manager steps in, you know when you’re coming in and out of form. But, she’s not really coming out of form, we are just judging her by a different stick to everybody else and I don’t think that’s fair. So when I look at her value to us, it’s immense and she’ll continue to grow. I’m going to wait, you’ve not even seen the very best of her yet, she’s not even at her peak. So I’m excited for what’s to come.’