‘Our losses are our most motivating factors,’ says Marc Skinner ahead of Southampton cup tie

Marc Skinner expects a ‘no-fear’ game from Championship side Southampton when Manchester United head to the Silverlake Stadium in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup on Sunday.

The Manchester United manager spoke to the press on Friday morning ahead of their fifth-round encounter with the Saints, who currently sit fourth in the Championship and boast the second highest goal tally in the division. 

‘Marianne [Spacey-Cale] has got them playing some really nice football and they’re a team that is very good to watch, they’re very good on the eye, and they have some very good players. I like the kind of youthful vibe about them as well, there’s no fear from them, so I expect a no-fear game from them against us on Sunday, but we have to put a performance in where we almost strike fear into them because of that.’

‘We’ve got to put every bit of attitude, aggression, and professionalism into the game and then of course we have the qualities to win it. We know it’s not going to be easy but we’ve got to be focused on what we can achieve and that is to try and do all we can in our power to play well against Southampton on Sunday.’

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The Reds had their best ever FA Cup run last year but fell just short in the final, losing 1-0 to Chelsea at Wembley – something Skinner says they can draw on for motivation if needed.

‘In sport and life, I think our losses are probably our most motivating factors and so losing in the final last year the way that we did and the way that we played, you know, it hurt. So it’s something that we can remind ourselves of going into this game – not about the loss but about the manner in which we got ourselves to the final and we were short by a hair’s breadth.’

Speaking about the importance of United’s FA Cup run this season, Skinner said: ‘Every game’s important to us – I’m not placing any more importance on this game because it’s a cup game, it’s a knockout competition.’

‘I don’t enter games thinking that, I don’t think that’s healthy. I think you have to enter the game knowing that you can put the best performance in and try and win the game.’

‘It’s important to our fans – of course it is, we know that, and we want to win things here. We’re ambitious. What we want to do here is focus on the game, focus on the performance against a very good team away on Sunday and if we do that then we have every chance to progress.’

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When asked about team selection in terms of injuries and rotation, the manager revealed that despite a few recent knocks, there are no new concerns ahead of the two remaining training sessions before the game. Defender Aoife Mannion, who has been in recovery from an ACL injury, is also in a position to be named in the squad. 

Skinner also spoke about the increasing importance of Lisa Naalsund to the team, with the midfielder having now made three consecutive starts. 

‘She adds a different dynamic to our team. Physically she’s wonderful – she actually borders on the elite for all of Europe based on her physicality.’

‘I think a skill of a coach is to understand when it’s the right time for a player to come in. That’s not easy because a player wants to play every game. But I think having Lisa and putting her in a position where she can grow subtly into the team has been important for her, and now we’re seeing the fruition of that and long may that continue. She adds such a fantastic dynamic to us and I’ve talked to her constantly and I constantly reinforce the positive messages about how she impacts our team. Everybody’s seeing that now.’

Nikita Parris, who scored a brace for the second WSL game in a row last weekend to add to her impressive tally, also came in for praise ahead of the squad selection for the Lionesses’ February camp.

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‘I feel that this is a rejuvenated player that has all of the qualities that she had prior, but with experience as well. She’s deadly at the minute, so I would hope that that might be something in consideration.’

‘I’m not here to select Sarina’s teams,’ admitted Skinner, ‘but I think she’s done everything she can in order to put herself in the shop window to be selected – and either way I’ll make sure that I work with Nikita to keep her in this space because for Manchester United that’s really important.’

United enter this cup tie after two consecutive league wins – something of a rebound for the Red Devils after losses to Chelsea and Manchester City. Skinner spoke about the importance of continuing their recent positive form, telling reporters that ‘I’m really pleased with the attitude of the players as always, I can never really question that.’

‘Performances and results don’t always tie in but it’s your best metric for trying to get results. So from our perspective I’m really happy with the way the players are taking it on board and we have to continue to perform in this vein and pick up points.’

United travel to a sold-out Silverlake Stadium for a 2pm kickoff on Sunday 11th February. The game will be broadcast live on the FA Player.