Striker evolution is ‘something we’re assessing,’ says Manchester United’s Skinner

The business end of the season is fast approaching, and with Manchester United having missed out on UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification, the battle to secure a top-four finish looks to intensify this weekend.

Prenton Park will host Liverpool Women for the final time on Sunday ahead of their full-time move to St Helen’s Stadium next season, and Matt Beard’s side will be keen to draw the curtains on their time in Tranmere with a win.

Should they do so, they’d leapfrog Manchester United to claim a spot in the Barclays Women’s Super League top four – leaving the Red Devils on course for their worst top-flight finish in history. The significance of the match isn’t lost on Marc Skinner, who acknowledged that ‘it’s going to be a difficult game. We have to make sure we put our best efforts in this weekend and, hopefully, take the points.’

‘Every time we’ve played Liverpool, the last time we played them, we lost the game, and it was on the fundamentals. That’s not just what Liverpool are, they are very good at playing direct and mixing it up, their build-up is different to most in the league. So, we’ve got to be alive in all of those [areas].’

United’s trip to Merseyside comes just a week before they head to Wembley Stadium to face Tottenham Hotspur in the final of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup – but Skinner assured that his players are fully focused on the task at hand and will give their all at Prenton Park.

‘What you have to almost explain, and the players know this, is that you’re more likely to get injured if you go half-hearted into tackles, if you half-challenge. You’re more likely to lose games and confidence if you go half-hearted into what you’re doing and the players know that.’

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‘Every player in this squad wants to perform in the final next week… but the challenge for a team if you want to compete, and we talk about it often, in the latter stages of tournaments and for leagues, then you have to be present in every moment.’

Skinner also explained that ‘everyone, currently, is available’ for selection, and added that he’s ‘hopeful that Jayde Riviere will be available on the bench as well. So everyone, barring the long-term injuries, is available and that’s obviously looking positive going into the last three games.’

Squad selection hasn’t always been straightforward for Skinner this season, with Gabby George perhaps the most high profile name on a long list of absentees after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury early in the campaign.

Reflecting on how George’s absence has forced changes elsewhere, Skinner praised Melvin Malard and said she ‘can be proud of what she’d done lately, and what she’s continued to add to the team.’

‘Melvine has predominantly played on the left side for Lyon and, for us, because we lost Gabby early in the season, we didn’t have that left-foot balance, and, obviously, Leah [Galton] offers a left-foot balance,’ he explained.

‘Since we’ve put Melvine in the 9, I feel like she’s got that deadly finisher’s touch. If we can get her into the box, I feel like she has that quality to finish. I think we’ve had to evolve throughout the season with her, I think she’s evolved and it’s obviously something we’re assessing going into the end of this season and next season about what that looks like.’