Manchester United ‘are not a top three team anymore,’ says Robert Vilahamn ahead of Wembley final

As he took to the press conference room at Hotspur Way on Friday, Robert Vilahamn cut a composed figure as he previewed Sunday’s Adobe Women’s FA Cup final. His Tottenham Hotspur side will make their debut under the arch, facing Marc Skinner’s Manchester United – with the Red Devils keen to atone for their loss to Chelsea in last season’s final.

Vilahamn has overseen significant change and development since his arrival in N17 in the summer. Tottenham have transitioned from relegation candidates in 2022/23 to finalists just twelve months on, and their growth can almost singlehandedly be attributed to the Swedish manager.

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The Lilywhites have become one of the most exciting teams in the Barclays Women’s Super League, with their attacking style of football mirroring the tactics deployed by Ange Postecoglou with the club’s men’s first team.

‘We want to be one club. We want to have one fanbase,’ explained Vilahamn during his pre-match press conference on Friday.

‘We want to make sure that our fans see us as one club with two teams, and when they watch our play, they can see the same identity and feel like they are part of those two teams, not only one team.’

‘I know there’s a lot of fans coming over to the women’s side, and in the future, I hope we don’t pick and choose from men’s and women’s sides. We have Tottenham fans who want to watch Tottenham play football, and that’s why I think it’s good to think they have one identity.’

The 41-year-old knows that his side head to Wembley as underdogs. They have never reached this stage of a competition before, unlike their rivals, and they will be forced to line up under the arch without the prodigal Grace Clinton.

Now capped for England after an impressive debut season in North London, Clinton is ineligible to play in Sunday’s showpiece final – as she is on loan from Manchester United. But despite the details perhaps pointing towards an easy win for the Red Devils, Vilahamn is confident that his side can compete.

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‘They are favourites for this game, because they have been near the top of the women’s game for a while. On the other hand, they are not a top three [team] anymore. We played a good game against them and we showed we can compete.’

The Swedish head coach has called upon the experience of those who have played in major finals before, and explained that he ‘started the first morning meeting this week by asking the players who’s been in the final, and won the final – what’s your best advice for this group?’

‘They said the same stuff: to keep focusing on the same way we do it, don’t overthink anything, just keep the process this week, and go into this game in a normal way.’

‘I think for the other players to hear that and understand that they have done these trips before, they spoke about how they’ve done the first game, second game, and so on, I think that’s helped the team to prepare,’ he added.

For Tottenham though, there is an added factor at play that they haven’t had to deal with before: VAR.

First deployed at last year’s Women’s FA Cup final, VAR will be used again on Sunday with David Coote in charge of the technology. Vilahamn explained to reporters that Spurs ‘had a meeting this week so we know a little bit more about how they use it.’

But the 41-year-old is not keen on the technology, expressing that ‘for me, when I watch games, sometimes it is boring because it slows down the tempo.’

‘In one way, it makes the game correct. I think I need to explore it and experience it before I have my feelings, but – right now – I need to adapt to the way we’re going to use it on Sunday. It’s here to stay; I just hope we can improve it so we don’t slow down the game. That’s the most important thing for me.’