HomeSportsMarc Skinner press conference: Team news; Manchester derby at the Etihad; stopping...

    Marc Skinner press conference: Team news; Manchester derby at the Etihad; stopping Khadija Shaw; contract talks

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    Manchester United have beaten Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and Aston Villa at Old Trafford since the start of November. Now, Marc Skinner’s side prepare to head across town for another big stadium clash as they face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

    Having won against Arsenal in dramatic fashion and sitting only three points behind WSL leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, United have firmly put themselves into the mix for Champions League qualification and potentially even a title race this season.

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    But City is another huge test. Gareth Taylor’s sky blues are on a nine-game winning streak in all competitions and United have never previously beaten them away from home.

    Covering various topics around the game and a few others such as Alessia Russo’s contract situation, here’s a look into everything Skinner said at his pre-match conference on Friday.

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    “We’ll assess them but the only one we’re just waiting a little bit on is Adriana Leon. She went down with flu the other day so we’re monitoring her. She could be back in today, depending on how she feels. Apart from that, everybody else is fit and healthy.”

    “Manchester City have the capability to go on a run like that. I think Chelsea was the last one they lost and if you look at ours, Chelsea was the last one we lost as well. It will be an interesting summary to see where we’re at.

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    “I have a lot of respect for our neighbours, what they do and what they’ve achieved. But that comes into us just planning extra and harder, making sure we do our business. Regardless, we have to make sure we put in a performance that can try and stop that [run].”

    “I want to see continued growth from us. These stats only exist until they’re broken. But we know how difficult it will be and where we’re playing at, obviously the Etihad with a lot of fans.

    “But the experiences we’ve had even in the recent past will hopefully build us up for what we want to do. We have to go into the game and perform. There will be nerves from both teams but we have to try and play our football as quickly as possible and get into out rhythm. If we do that, any of these kinds of statistics can crumble at any point. We have to put ourselves in the best mindset to do that.”

    “A derby becomes a different game. It relies on momentum and moments. We know both teams in this game will have spells of possession and chances, so it’s a slightly different game regardless of form, history or results.

    “Gareth, for all the players he’s lost, he has recruited the team he wants.

    “We’re playing Gareth’s team now, so it’s really important that we put in a performance and focus on what we can do. We know their players have a lot of qualities, but so do we and I’m hoping it will be a really exciting one for everyone to watch.”

    “It’s hugely important. I’ve watched our teams perform in those venues in front of the fans, so when we go into this game, we can literally look back three or four weeks and have two experiences of that. It’s important that we use that as much as possible.

    “Manchester City will be galvanised by their fans. But if we can turn it the other way and perform straight from the off, you can try and quieten those fans and momentum shifts your way. We have to try and do that – we know how difficult that will be.

    “All I can say is we have to focus on how we want to perform in this game, minimise their qualities and maximise ours.

    “We’ve massively grown as a collective. Statistics would say we score first and go on to win games, but actually the reality is we’re putting that into a performance. We’re scoring first [in big stadium games] because we’re performing to score first. I know it’s a huge occasion but it’s no different to our practiced principles we do in every day training.”

    “Enough of a headache to take tablets, right? All joking aside, it’s a good problem to have and I’ve always said the hardest part is selecting a team.

    “Internally, my players always know I never doubt them for a second. The reality is I’m trying to strike balance between attack and defence. There’s much more than ‘this player plays in that position, let’s go with that’. There is much more thinking and planning.

    “For example, Vilde Boe Risa, we know she can [come in and score two goals], but there’s a balance on the other side of the game that we’re working hard to achieve.

    “I’m not happy we went out of the Conti Cup, but I’m happy with the performance [against Everton]. It shows the growth of the whole collective – you saw the way they celebrated, it was a complete team regardless of nine changes. Those are more important signs than any individual part.”

    “It was the amount of people who turned up to those venues. We were fortunate enough to put on two really good performances [at the Emirates and Old Trafford]…I’m hoping we can make that another one at the Etihad.

    “It’s a huge statement for our game, the club and the work they’re doing, and the players and the people who want to keep coming to see. We hope this is just the start and continue this. Our job is to make sure we play a huge part in that. It’s magnificent. As a coach, stepping into these wonderful stadiums with a lot of people is a great feeling.

    “We’ve got a lot of Manchester United fans in our team so there is a deep core of this being real for them. For me, whenever I go to a team – I was obviously born in Birmingham – I embody and encapsulate everything about the team that I’m at. I’m Manchester United through and through.

    “This is real for people, for Manchester City fans as well as Manchester United fans, but we’d be stupid to think we can just work our way through the game emotionally. There are too many good players on show to do that. Whoever strikes the balance right will control the game.

    “You don’t have to drill it [into overseas players]. It’s present and in everything you do. It’s a huge game that everyone looks forward to and the first one you look for when the schedule comes out. Our players are starting to get used to playing in big occasions and I talked last year about the experiences gained. Unless, you experience, you won’t grow from it.”

    “You have to be aware of her. Physically, she’s excellent, the way she strikes the ball. What I think you have to do is make sure she doesn’t touch the ball as much, stifle her play and try and keep her out of the positions she wants to be in where she is deadly.

    “There’s going to be times when we rely on individuals, times when we defend as a team. But, more importantly, you can defend with the ball as well, so if she doesn’t touch the ball as much. We’ve been very good at keeping clean sheets as well, so it should be a good challenge for us.

    “Derbies are usually different because there’s usually a little bit of caginess…we’re against our rivals. We just need to make sure we get into performance mode as quickly as possible, forget the occasion and play the game. It sounds cliched when a coach talks about that, but actually there are parameters we put in place to do that – how we set up, how we start, how we stifle the opposition.

    “I hope that we put the necessary physicality on the game. Nobody ever wants to hurt anyone, but actually these are derbies so we have to make sure we’re competitive; I’m sure Manchester City would say the same. We have to be there in spirit, body, mind…everything.

    “We’ve performed excellently in this part of the year. The growth in our team, the performances, the amount of goals we’ve scored, the clean sheets, we’ve been excellent. We have to make sure we put a really huge effort into this game too and I’m sure we will.”

    “The reason I believe that is the amount of goals we’re scoring, the different goalscorers, the amount of clean sheets again like we did last year.

    “More importantly, I think the way the teams that have historically been above us see us has adapted and changed. It always helps getting the win against Arsenal and that was probably bigger psychologically than just the three points we got.

    “But this game is different. Manchester City are not going to go in and over-respect us, so we have to earn that right. We’re going to try and impart every bit of energy, brains, emotion and quality, and if we put all that into a nice melting pot, we can get to a level where we can challenge [Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City] in every game we play against them. We’ve got to get to that level.”

    “It would be huge. I think it would be the same as Arsenal – we were close with Arsenal last year and drew a game we should have won.

    “We’ve beaten [Man City] in a cup, but cups can be different. It would be huge [to win] at the Etihad in front of all the Man City fans. But I’ll reiterate that we have no given right to do that. We have to earn this; my team will earn everything they get.

    “We’ve started, in terms of the time we’ve been around, behind the other three. But what a great time to show our growth as a team.”

    “I think it’s probably the biggest, right? Our fans love playing against Arsenal and Chelsea, of course. But this is the derby. It’s a huge game for both teams, but I’m hoping our team have shown their big game mentality. We will continue to work on our mentality on playing in games like this because, as the game grows, it’s going to be part of what we do.”

    “The need to want something right now is always going to be present. I think we’re slightly ahead [of schedule] in terms of growth and maturity. We’re still recruiting in this team and still have adaptations going forward to get it to where I want it to be to compete on a consistent basis.

    “But I’ve seen accelerated attitudes and personalities in the group.

    “We want to create a sustainable winning model and we have to do that by performance.”

    “The talks are continuing. There is no update right now, but we’re working hard behind the scenes to make that happen. I’ve said this before, these contract talks take a while. With the ever-increasing popularity of the game, everything just takes a little bit longer.

    “You’re trying to future proof these conversations too. For us, we’re designing a team that wants to compete in this league. We are working hard to make sure that happens.”

    “We played Everton [in the Conti Cup] the other night and it was freezing. We had 1,500 fans that braved the weather just to watch the team play.

    “It’s brilliant. We feel a responsibility to put performances on that keep growing this. If that can be 400% in future. If we want to fill these [big] stadiums in future, we have to keep that number doubling and quadrupling. It’s a privilege for us to play in front of more people, but it shows the quality of the league and everybody in it trying to push the standards.”

    For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter!

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