Marc Skinner has breathed new belief back into his Manchester United side. The Red Devils have been absolutely flying since the start of December, and have now won five games in a row, which sees them level on points with second place Chelsea and just four points off top. This latest winning run also saw them book their place in the Continental League Cup semi-finals where they will take on the Blues, having dumped out current table toppers Arsenal last time out.
Skinner himself was awarded the Manager of the Month award for December and now his side have clicked, they are in pole position to secure a Champions League spot, ahead of a mouth-watering clash against fourth-place Tottenham this weekend. The two sides are level on points after Spurs conceded a 92nd minute equaliser against West Ham in their last league match and could meet in the League Cup final, if Rehanne Skinner’s side can get past Manchester City.
Although they share the same surname the two managers are not related, although their paths have crossed when they both worked together at Leicester City. Now Marc will hope to get the better of his former boss as his side look to continue their exceptional run of form that has seen them shoot up the table.
For all the chaos that came this summer at the club, which culminated in Casey Stoney’s resignation, Skinner always seemed a sensible appointment, even if he had huge boots to fill. He was not just taking over from an excellent coach, but a pioneer in the women’s game.
The Arsenal legend had been with United since the belated inception of their professional women’s side in 2018, and had led them out of the FA Women’s Championship and into the Women’s Super League in scintillating fashion, finishing ten points clear at the top of the second tier. Stoney left at the end of last season, citing the poor facilities made available to her side at Carrington as a motivating factor after she had overseen back-to-back fourth-placed finishes.
New hire Skinner has had to follow a manager who had enjoyed magnificent success in the role, and contend with the very conditions and unrest that led to her departure, but yet, after an indifferent start, things seem to be coming together for the forward-thinking boss.
“What we’re starting to see now is a power from within,” he told MUTV after his side beat Arsenal in midweek. “We’re not looking at what the opponent can do to us, we are feeling our own strengths. What it does is give you that buzz to go out on the field and be ourselves and express ourselves.
“We were waiting for the results to make us feel that way, even though we knew it was coming. For me, I’m shivering right now with the anticipation of what we can achieve here if we continue to focus on our next task.”
That excitement will only continue to build if United can secure an all-important win over Spurs on Sunday. Alessio Russo now has two goals in her last two and will surely be pushing for a start having scored the winner off the bench against Arsenal, but it seems a happy squad is a productive squad and they are all pushing in the same direction for the manager many presumed would come up short following Stoney’s unglamourous exit.
If Skinner can secure a third-placed finish, it would be United’s most successful season in the league. With the possibility of cup success on the cards as well, this season which began with frustration could turn into a memorable one for all of the right reasons.
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