Marc Skinner believes ‘Manchester United has the biggest fanbase in the world’

Despite a difficult start to the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League season, Manchester United are currently top of their Continental Cup group on nine points – with cross-city rivals, Manchester City, hot on their heels with seven points.

United face City tomorrow in a derby fixture, with Marc Skinner addressing the media on Tuesday ahead of the game saying: ‘The reality is we go into every game to try and win it.’

‘First and foremost it’s a derby, so it has a different feeling, and a different flavour.’

‘Tomorrow we know exactly what we’ve got to do in order to put the foundations in place […] the game will play out right.’

‘We want to add silverware so I think the sole focus will move to this game and then it will go straight back to Villa.’

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Skinner was questioned by the press about the Red Devils’ recent form, with the team sat fourth in the WSL, ten points behind league leaders Chelsea.

‘The reality is, last season we were almost perfect. We were sat here winning almost every game, I think we lost three in the season, so look it’s a tough comparison but that’s the reality of football, you know. We are always trying to better ourselves. I think Manchester City have probably got one of the most consistent squads now […] that’s the consistency levels you need.’

‘That’s what will happen to our team. We’ll get more consistent as we get more together so yes I think they’re a very good team but we have our own aspirations, our own way of doing things and we must stay true to that.’

Reflecting on the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, he said: ‘I mean the reality is when you don’t win games of football, you reflect, that’s nature. The easiest one is that when you win, you kinda move, and you continue to move, and you continue to move and you don’t always learn.’

‘We looked at what it was within that game that we needed to fix […] there were moments within that game [against Chelsea] that if they fall our way, we can win the game, and that’s the difference you know the goals we conceded we won’t be happy with.’

‘The reality is, and let’s be clear on this, Manchester United has the biggest fanbase in the world. It’s the biggest and you’re going to always have within that fanbase, some opinions that are not always the same, and that’s welcome.’

‘I’m a big believer in pressure is what you make of it. You can’t get absorbed with pressure, you cannot. You are driven everyday, you have an internal pressure as a manger, you have an internal pressure as a player, to drive your own standards, and that’s what I do everyday so, the opinion outside is absolutely welcome.’

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Skinner continued to defend his side as he explained: ‘If you’re watching our performances, in almost every game we should have won the game, we’ve had chances to win the game. We’re not performing badly.’

‘Manchester United, in all probably bar two, were probably the best team statistically and in performance – that is where we get skewed. We want fast-food information but we have to now dig a little deeper into seeing performance.’

‘I’m happy with the team’s performance, I’m happy with their energy, and I’m happy with their commitment to what we’re trying to do. We are in a moment where we’re not picking up results we want, that happens in football at times but it digs and it builds your resolve even more and that’s exactly what I want from my team. If you want to win things you’ve got to take these punches and roll with them, and at the minute we’re doing that and we’ll fix them.’

When asked by the media about whether the comments made by BBC pundits about United’s desire in the first half of the WSL fixture against Chelsea hurt, the 40-year-old admitted: ‘They don’t need an external gauge to reflect internally, so we always have to be aware of the language we use; I have to be aware of the language I use, people have to be aware of the language they use, but they also say when you’re commentating you have to speculate right and you have to engage the audience. We were not good enough for the first 25 minutes, we were not, it’s not about energy, the metrics were fine. It was about the right types of pressure.’

‘It’s about eagerness. We were too eager to jump all over Chelsea when really we should be more reserved, so it wasn’t about the energy levels.’

He provided an injury update ahead of the clash with City saying: ‘Even playing players that are just coming back from injury, they’re probably at a level where they’re ready to start if that makes sense so it actually wouldn’t be a rotation […] we have a smaller squad you know. We’ve taken a few injuries so we will have to utilise the whole team and of course we’ll want to do that because the qualities we have will be able to add much to the game against Manchester City, so I think it’s about knowing who and when where I’m going to try and look to use the whole squad and still get the job done. That’s the important part. It’s not just about putting a team out, it’s about actually trying to win the game with the players that we put on the field.’

‘Melvine [Malard] obviously missed the game the other day with a little niggle. She trained yesterday, so I’m hoping she will be available for training today, when she’s going to be assessed this morning.’

‘Jayde Riviere took a knock in the game, just an impact knock, so obviously she’ll be assessed this morning.’

‘Apart from that, Iri [Guerrero] was training yesterday as well so she will hopefully be available, apart from that, the only one, Aoife [Mannion] is probably a few weeks away from returning and maybe being involved in the match day squad.’

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Skinner was then asked about the prospect of recalling Grace Clinton back to Manchester United: ‘You know we’ve had those conversations and the reality is the consistency that Grace is having at the minute in playing time and so on is helping develop a player that we bought for the future project, you know.’

‘Grace is fully onboard with that and so yeah I think there are other areas we need to bring in like I think through our squad it’s pretty obvious right. It’s pretty obvious where we’ve got some issues in depth, not in quality let me be clear on that, not in quality but in depth, and so right now you know we’re comfortable in the decision making process around Grace.’

Responding to comments about potentially filling his bench with youth players, the United manager said: ‘Obviously our youngsters are within an education programme, so you can call them up for games and especially on the evenings but you know the reality is to get them into your training sessions to give them the best opportunities, is also difficult at times. You have to plan well ahead and if you take an injury late, it’s probably not viable for that person’s education. I think it’s really important at that age that you get educated as well as playing football.’

‘I would love to continue the development of youth here, you know I’ve given four contracts say to younger players to make sure they have the stability to grow their professional game, so for me, and at this club, youth is especially vitally important. I just think there are some barriers that you know we will address with the board members.’

‘We may look at that tomorrow night […] if it all falls in place and we’re not disrupting the player and their development, then of course we’ll look at that. I don’t want to sit with an empty bench if I can help it.’

The Continental Cup fixture will take place at the Joie Stadium on Wednesday evening, with a kick-off time of 7pm.