Skinner: Bring on game one
Manchester United Women head coach Marc Skinner has told club media that he can already see a step up in his team from where it was at the conclusion of last season.
Skinner’s Reds registered our highest-ever WSL points tally (56) and league position (second) at the end of the 2022/23 term and are now just days away from kicking off a new campaign, in which we will look to build on those achievements.
United go into Sunday’s opening fixture away to Aston Villa off the back of a vitalising pre-season, which included a successful training camp in Germany, along with five fitness-and-sharpness-boosting friendlies against top-level opposition.
Now, Marc’s side are fully focused on this weekend’s trip to Villa Park – which you can buy tickets for here – and prior to it, the boss sat down with MUTV’s Ben Ibson to look ahead to the game and beyond, in an insightful interview that aptly sets the scene for 2023/24.
You can read – and watch – every word of it below…
“I've been really impressed with the performances. We've not had the ability to get full 90s out for everybody within every moment because we've been managing people coming in, coming into the club late, but you can already see the cohesion. You can already see the talent, the exciting kind of players. I can already see a step up from where we were last season because we need to, you can't stand still. And we've put in some really good performances, albeit in like 45-minute spells, 60-minute spells. But even when maybe against Liverpool, we weren't at our very best, we found a way to create beautiful goals to score. In different ways. We scored a counter-attack goal that was just unbelievable. So, I'm pleased with where we're at. We've got lots more to grow. Come game one, we won't be at our very best in the season, but nor will any team. But we've got to be ready. And so, I feel, from what I'm seeing, that if you look at the way we attack and the way we defend, I'd be very, very scared of what we can achieve. And that's always going to be difficult for a team we play against.”
Well, that's one thing. Looking at the players who have come in this summer, it seems like we have new signings and then we've got 'new new' signings because the likes of Emma, Evie, Gemma, they've had the chance to come on tour with us and then the newer signings that have probably just trained for the first time today, all of whom have got a big smile on their face and just look like they're excited to play some football.
“Do you know what? The beauty was that every one of the players that we've got in wanted to play for Manchester United. You know, they were dying to play for Manchester United. And I think that shows a lot, about not only that they always reference the fans, they always reference the historical qualities of the club. And so that for me was the most important. We've got people that want to be here and want to push their standards every single day and want to win. And so, from my perspective, although they've not all come in at the same time, we've got this special, unique camaraderie as our players that they are just friendly with each other straight away and they get everybody in. And I think every player would say that when they come in, the special group and tight-knit atmosphere we create is a real key driver of why we're successful. I want that to maintain and continue. But while adding this now world-class talent, I think that's the next level for us.”
“Correct. And, you know, Aston Villa have invested. So, the club have invested, which has given Carla the ability to go and get players in. But there's going to be an expectation on them this year as well, which is different, right? So, they've got to manage that on themselves and what they've got to do. But from my perspective, it's not really about what Villa do. We know how good Rach Daly was last year, for example. We know how good Kirsty [Hanson] was and so on. But it's for us to try and maximize our qualities, to beat the opponent. They'll be hyped up. It'll be at Villa Park, first game of the season. You've got to douse that fire. You've got to move the ball, you've got to make them work. And if we do that, then we have the ability to beat any team in this league. I have no doubt about that. But it will be difficult. Well, why shouldn't it be? Nothing should be easy. Not if you're going to earn it. And our team will absolutely earn everything they get. So, [it will be] difficult, but we're looking forward to it.”
Well, that's one positive about the Women's Super League because every year the teams in it seem to be getting stronger and stronger and the standard just gets higher and higher. And I spoke to Leah [Galton] before and she said there's no easy teams in this league anymore.
“I look at the investment throughout the league, Liverpool, Brighton, Leicester. That doesn't include Villa, Tottenham. I look at the investment these teams are putting in and I'm like, ‘yeah, look, the threshold for points will change.’ There'll be more games which are tighter, there'll be more 'shock results' but really they're not shocks actually, everyone respects the team they're playing against. Our league's getting better and you know, we do as managers want that. Of course, it's difficult when you play against those better teams, but for us, it's the challenge of the league. And if you want to be the best team, as I want to be the best manager and so on and so on, you have to face these challenges. And from my perspective, it's a welcome challenge and, you know, bring on game one, which will be a very difficult challenge for us.”
“I think we could double or triple that with our fans. I just think on a regular basis, I think from our perspective it shows the growth. I think Manchester United has a unique place in the women's game. I think our fan base and our supporters can grow and have a massive impact in the wider women's game. They can show other teams how to do it. And I think from our perspective when we hear that we've sold out and I think it was tripled or doubled at least, it shows us that they're there in their numbers to support straight from the off. And that just makes us even more driven to want to perform for them. I want our team to be the attack, attack, attack. That's where we getting to. You know, I want our team to amaze our fans. Fans come through the good and bad times, but I want them to come to our games and go, ‘wow!’”