‘If you don’t like pressure, never come to Manchester United,’ warns Marc Skinner ahead of Chelsea clash

Ahead of an important clash in the Barclays Women’s Super League that sees his Manchester United side face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Marc Skinner addressed the media on Friday morning. The boss was asked to address the rising pressures within the club, alongside comments made by ex-players that insinuate a poor culture.

‘I pay no attention’ to ex-player’s comments

Much has been made of the comments made by both Martha Thomas and her agent since the Scottish international departed Manchester United to sign for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. But despite reports of an unprofessional working atmosphere within the club and a potential element of favouritism, Marc Skinner downplays the remarks, insisting that ‘it’s part and parcel of the game.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘People make comments depending on how they feel in that moment. What I can say as a collective is when your manager is making decisions, some go for you and some go against you – and I think from my perspective, I always try to explain what a situation is and where people are at, and how they’re playing.’

‘It’s the reality of being at a top club and from my perspective, it’s really important that a player is supported regardless. Those comments can be made, they’re very easy to make comments online but from my perspective, I’m in this environment every day and I’m going to say it’s the absolute opposite of that. I pay no attention to that.’

No closer to Earps deal but ‘the conversations are continuing’

Mary Earps’ contract situation remains unsolved, says the Manchester United manager just days after the England goalkeeper was named as The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper of 2023. Asked whether the club are any closer to her signing a new deal or leaving to move elsewhere, Skinner replied that ‘the reality is I don’t think we’re any closer to either of those, but the conversations are continuing.’

‘What I’d say is Mary has been absolutely fantastic in her attitude, her commitment to what we’re doing here. Every single day, me and her try to keep her a nice balance. There are obviously factors that Mary needs to achieve in her contract and the club are negotiating to do that, but what I want to stress is Mary’s here as a United player and she’s giving an unwavering focus to perform for the team.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘I also want to make sure that Mary’s looked after in this situation because she’s giving nothing but quality for our team, and she’s fully focused. For someone that’s going through a situation where her future will be decided in the next few months, she’s giving absolutely everything for Manchester United and that’s the real key of her character.’

‘If you don’t like pressure, never come to Manchester United’

Asked if there has been a palpable increase in pressure at the club given that they sit seven points behind Chelsea, Skinner insisted that there is always pressure at Manchester United and that he feels the current situation is no different from the usual.

‘I think I’ve said this before,’ he said, ‘and maybe I can wear it on a t-shirt, but there’s pressure every day at Man United. There’s pressure every day, and how you choose to do that is who you are as a person. From my perspective, it’s about making sure my team are prepared. We need to be at our very best. Pressure is part of this job, and if you don’t like pressure, never come to Manchester United.’

When quizzed as to whether this weekend’s match is a must-win, Skinner insisted that ‘it feels like that in every way, but we can’t forget what it takes to beat Chelsea at their home ground. We know we need to do that, but we’ve also got to perform that and I think from my perspective, the things we can manage are our attitude, the way the play, the commitment to winning the game and look, there aren’t many that go to Chelsea and win anyway so our aim is that – our aim is to go to Chelsea and win.’

‘You’re going to need a bit of luck, but so are Chelsea if they’re going to beat us as well. What I want us to do is I want us to go in there with the right headspace.’

‘We perform very well in a lot of our games’

Skinner insists that while Manchester United have won just half of their 10 league fixtures so far this season, that the performances are – for the most part – meeting his expectations. ‘I want to be very clear on this,’ he explains, ‘because [the reporters in the press conference] won’t watch every minute that Manchester United play because you just don’t have time, we perform very well in a lot of our games – very well.’

‘Our statistics are very good, but it’s those moments where we should have gone 2-0 up and we end up being pegged back. Those are factors and that happened in the Manchester City game, and in the Liverpool game.’

‘Confidence is something that should be given to us – we don’t deserve it’

Quizzed as to whether Ella Toone’s recognition in the FIFPRO World XI will boost the midfielder’s confidence after coming under criticism in the early stages of the season, Skinner offered a diplomatic and philosophical reply, explaining that he is ‘sure it plays a part, but I’m a big believer in this as well and we select confidence when we want to.’

‘What I’m saying about that is we believe confidence is something that should be given to us, we don’t deserve it. That’s not the case. Confidence is something you work on every day, it’s about your processes, your performance, your attitude. If you get all of those right, your confidence flows.’

Embed from Getty Images

‘I’ll be very clear about Ella – I feel like I’ve had to support her in public months ago, but I shouldn’t have had to do that. Ella Toone is a fantastic footballer and it wasn’t about confidence with her, it was about her processes.’

Chelsea have ‘an amazing amount of depth’

Chelsea will be without Sam Kerr for the remainder of the season, with the Australian having suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury during the club’s warm-weather training camp in Morocco after Christmas.

Marc Skinner insists that it doesn’t necessarily mean Chelsea will be an easier side to face, adding that ‘that’s obviously something based on who is selected – that’s the ability Chelsea have to rotate that. I think Emma [Hayes] said herself about Aggie Beever-Jones who has been doing really well, Mia Fishel, she can also play Lauren James in there.’

‘They have an amazing amount of depth, it’ll be different though. Everyone knows how great Sam is and I wish her all the best with her recovery. It’s horrible to see anyone out with that, especially a player of her quality.’