Skinner: New signings move us forward

Tuesday 16 August 2022 09:24

Manchester United Women's manager Marc Skinner feels that the new additions he has made to his side this summer will help catapult the Reds towards Champions League qualification this term.

The Reds take on two-time Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night, with Skinner looking to test his squad in pre-season ahead of the beginning of the Women's Super League in September.

Ahead of the first match of the tournament in France, the United Women's boss sat down with club media's Steve Bennett to discuss his aspirations for 2022/23.

Skinner also touched on the Euro 2022 success of England Lionesses and explained what each of his seven summer signings will bring to his side.

You can read the full interview with the manager below...

Skinner: We aspire to be in the Champions League Video

Skinner: We aspire to be in the Champions League

Marc Skinner believes his summer signings will help United Women to chase the club's objectives this season...

So Marc it’s the first time we’ve spoken to you this pre-season. Before we get into the new additions, how has it been?
“I mean it’s been great. It’s great to be back. I think we’ve learnt a lot from last year. We’ve learnt a lot about where we were, where we wanted to be and we’ve got a lot of work to do. But I’ve learnt so much about this group of people, and there were so many fantastic things from last year we have to now move that forward another notch, and now we’re going to speak about the signings and that’s part of the reason. We need to make sure that we never stand still and that’s something that we’re going to keep pushing here.”

So seven new additions this campaign, let’s go through them now. Aissatou and Maya defensively what will they bring to the squad?
“I think both of them bring something different. I think that’s key. When I identified where our targets needed to be this year, there were many, many factors. Aissa will bring experience. She’s played in the Champions League which is one of our aims and aspirations as part of the winning phase. But what she brings is just a cool calmness with the ball as well. I think that’s important. We’re a team that likes to have the ball but what I want to do this year is make sure we’re not predictable and she has all of those skills. She has great physical attributes; she’s also been in the recent Euros and got to the very late stage. That’s the things we are looking at. That kind of vital experience of winning big games. And Maya, she’s a superb talent, a young talent. We’re a team that prides ourselves on bringing through young talented players and we keep looking for that through our academy as well, but when you identify someone like Maya, who has everything about her to be a special talent.”

Another young player, Grace Clinton, joined us in midfield. What will she offer?
“I mean, it’s the brains. We are fortunate to have quite a few talented young players in those attacking areas. With Grace when I watched her last year, she just had this capacity to calm a game down and play at her own pace, and for someone so young it was vital. I want to make sure we have a balance going forwards of youth, but also players who are going to push. She has a great personality as well and so that allows her to be herself on the field and that’s another key attribute as to why we have brought her in. The quality she sees, the vision she sees will unlock a lot of chances for us this year.”

Attacking-wise, you’ve gone for a nice blend of youth and experience. Let’s work through, first of all, Rachel [Williams], Lucia [Garcia], what will they add to your team?
“Rachel is one of the ones where she will wear her heart on her sleeve and I felt that when you’re coming into games when you need big moments, you need people that aren’t frightened to take those moments and they don’t fear the opponent. I felt that maybe sometimes last year we had a little bit of that. And so, with Rachel, she brings a wealth of experience from this league that she can pass down to our younger players. With Lucia, she’s just electric. [She's] somebody that I feel our fans will really engage with. She can invade backlines, she can take the ball one v one; another strategy to beat a stubborn defence. We found ourselves against a lot of blocks last year so adding her ability to invade lines at the right time [is good]. [She] also adds competition to this team and it keep us on the edge, and that’s what I’m looking for. I want this team to play on the edge every week, so that we can express exactly who we are and really challenge the status quo above us and make sure that we put ourselves in the best position to be successful this year.”

United Women depart for France Video

United Women depart for France

Our women's team get ready to fly from Manchester Airport ahead of Tuesday's match against Paris Saint-Germain...

Two further attackers that you’ve added are Adriana [Leon] and Nikita [Parris]. Particularly Nikita, has had a wonderful summer…
“Well I spoke to Nikita, and I looked at her time at Arsenal. For her, it was maybe not what she wanted at that time, you know. So for me, when you pick up a player that has her talent and her qualities, and also the fire of coming in and showing something different and, you know, just showing everyone who she is, but also that pedigree of winning. How she is in our environment will also make sure our team will have that fun energy too. But she said she wants ‘ice in the mind’ when she’s playing, and that is something that is vital for me. Fire in the belly and ice in the mind and I think that sums her up pretty well. And obviously going on to Adriana, again another winner. An Olympic winner. From what I’ve seen in training, [she's] another one that will really excite the fans. It’s amazing. Every one of those forwards that I’ve added in, her qualities, she’ll score goals. I have no doubt about that. She’ll create goals, and already in the short time I’ve seen her, we’ve got a really exciting frontline coming up.”

Training highlights: Ready for Toulouse Video

Training highlights: Ready for Toulouse

Our cameras captured Marc Skinner’s side working at Carrington, before they flew out to France…

All the Lionesses have now returned. This is the first time we have all the squad back as we build up to this French tournament. What are your goals, what are you hoping to achieve from this week?
“We aspire to be in the Champions League. We aspire to be on that level and win on that level. We know what we have to do in our domestic league as well to get to there, but for us it was about challenge. We could easily have sat at home and played the regular friendlies that everybody does but to pull ourselves out of our comfort zone, to come into an environment where we are playing some of the best teams in the world, was something I needed this group to face. And so we go into these games to learn. To try to win, of course, because we enter every game to try and win. And to overcome such an obstacle as these – PSG first but whoever knows we get in the other - but two fantastic teams and I think it shows a lot about what we’re asking as staff. We are not happy to just sit still, we want to progress. So I’m hoping that we can build into this and learn a lot from it.”

We have to talk about the Lionesses specifically. How delighted were you to have now four players in that team that conquered Europe? You must be so proud of them?
“More importantly, I’m proud of them as people. I think we forget that. What they’ve done is, there’s a lot of cliches that are thrown around, but genuinely having a small daughter who adores – all she talks about is Ella Toone and Alessia Russo and Mary Earps. She actually was diving around the other day. She didn’t know Nikita at the time, she hasn’t met her yet. But to have a group of inspiring women that I work with every day. Not just the Lionesses, but these now coming back in as winners, I’m so proud of what they have done – they’ve set ablaze, now hopefully our league, and everybody is paying attention, which they should have been from the start anyway. But we are as a team going to welcome them back in but we’re now down to business for us. As proud as we are, we now have to replicate that in our team. And that’s the message that’s gone out to those players is ‘wonderful, wonderful summer, and now it’s down to business for us.’”