Casey Stoney watches on from the sidelines.

Casey Stoney on United's season so far

Speaking to ManUtd.com ahead of last Friday's postponement of all WSL fixtures until at least 3 April, now extended until the end of that month, head coach Casey Stoney reflected on the team's post-Christmas results, and how the Reds can achieve our next target of challenging the division's 'big three'...

Stop-start season…
“Obviously it's been frustrating that the season has been so fragmented, but in recent weeks with no competitive games we had the opportunity to play a couple of friendlies – really high-level ones – and we got a lot out of those. A lot of the players were away on international duty, also, so we were able to put in some really quality work into training with those who stayed behind, with a lot of detail.”

Post-Christmas results…
“We've had a sticky period since Christmas, there's no hiding away from that, and it's been a test for us with some really difficult fixtures, plus we've had some injuries. Kirsty Hanson is one of those who's been out, but she's pretty much back to full fitness, and Lauren James has been rehabbing with her injury. Even with all the players having their own training programmes to carry out while away, the biggest challenge after any long break is match fitness and sharpness, as well as mental capacity – it can take time to get all three of those at the required level.”

Recollections of our last game…
“If I'm honest, on a different day, on a different pitch, with different conditions, I think it's a comfortable win at Everton. At 3-0 we were worthy of it, we were comfortable at 3-0, then they scored a freak goal – we needed to do better from the corner, I know that – but the wind made it very difficult. The wind was horrendous when it picked up, it was really bad. We could have wobbled after their second goal went in, especially after what had happened in the previous weeks, but we stood strong. I thought it was a really important three points. It would have been really unfair if we'd not got the win, because I thought we earned it that day.”

Our position in the WSL…
“Fourth is a really positive position, but I'm also disappointed we're not closer to the teams above us. We dropped points where we shouldn't have, we know that, and we need to be more consistent. We needed to beat West ham, Bristol City – these are points we shouldn't have dropped. Then there's Brighton, Reading – if we really want to be up there in the table we want to win those games. That's frustrating, we could have 10 more points on the board and be clear of the teams beneath us. But at the same time it keeps the league really competitive, it means our players have to keep themselves honest and keep competing. We want to stay where we are, which is no easy task with the games still to play – West Ham, Birmingham [twice], City, Arsenal, Bristol City, Liverpool and Chelsea. That's not an easy run-in.”
 

Maintaining consistency…
“I've said to the players all along, it's about mentality. If you can do it against City, Arsenal and Chelsea, you have to want to do it against every single team, no matter what their position in the table. We know on our day we can compete with the best so we have make sure we have that mindset every single game-day. Preparing to win, and executing to win.”


Effective game management… 
“Think about how many chances we've created in certain games this season and not taken them, and then the other team has gone down the other end and punished us. When you're not playing at your best as a team, you need to take that chance when it comes, then defend really well to keep that back door shut. Effective game management doesn't mean time-wasting; it means playing in the right areas, especially when you've got a lead and not playing especially well. You've got to play in the opposition half as much as possible to keep them under pressure. That might not be our style and way of doing things, but sometimes it's a way to win the game.”
 
Taking those chances…
“Attacking-wise, we need to be more ruthless to win more games. That's not putting pressure on the players, it's just saying that, at this level, when we get a one-on-one with a goalkeeper or get in the final third, we've got to make to make better decisions to execute our chances, or it constantly prevents the other team with the opportunity to get back into the game.”
 

Team-bonding days…
“The recent days we spent with [Mamma Mia! stage star] Mazz Murray were really good. I've got to be honest, from my point of view I didn't know what to expect going into it, but there are so many parallels – in terms of her being a lead lady, what she says about her environment, what you can and can't have when you're part of a team. After she came to our training ground, I went down there [to London] to see the theatre and conditions they work in; how they all have to be so slick, especially on show night, and have to perform no matter what. It's incredible as my players have to do the same, so it was really good to share experiences like that. We all had to sing our name and position in front of everyone, which took me out of my comfort zone. The stage was never meant for me – at school I was the one at the back playing the triangle!”

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