Marc Skinner: You get ‘punched in the face so many times before you learn to dodge’

Manchester United will make their second appearance in the Women’s FA Cup final on May 12, after stunning Chelsea in a 2-1 win at Leigh Sports Village.

Marc Skinner’s side had never previously beaten the Blues, with the most high-profile loss coming in the final of this competition when they met under the Wembley Arch last season.

‘We needed to do something different today that we hadn’t done [before]. We’ve opened Chelsea up. Today was about being a little bit more direct, sacrificing a little bit with the ball,’ Skinner reflected post-match.

‘It’s times like this that you create, and it doesn’t always happen that way but today it has and the players – the defensive capability of the whole team outweighs attacking half today. That is something we should admire because it wasn’t just great football, but great defending also.’

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Chelsea have been competing at the highest level for some time now, and were viewed as clear favourites ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Leigh Sports Village. The Blues sit three points clear of Manchester United in the Barclays Women’s Super League table, and still have a game in hand to play.

Rachel Williams was named in the starting lineup on Sunday, with the 36-year-old going on to score United’s second goal after 23 minutes. Skinner spoke on her inclusion in the team, explaining that ‘people talk about her role, and if you were Chelsea and you’re predicting our starting line-up, we knew that would give us an edge from the off.’

‘Of course, it’s an incredible moment to score so early and set up the game. I get that. But what we wanted to do was give them four real threats and that’s not just with the ball, it’s without the ball.’

Speaking about his wide team selection, Skinner added: ‘It’s hard because the balance you have as coaches is you are trying to design what your team look like going forward. So you’re trying to design an attacking team. If you don’t ever attack in those bigger moments, bigger games like the stadium games, you never see if they can do it and of course, you might risk taking a defeat but there’s a there’s an adaptation point. You are only going to get punched in the face so many times before you learn to dodge.’