Marc Skinner hoping to turn past heartache into Man Utd advantage in Women's FA Cup final

  • Man Utd face Tottenham in Women's FA Cup final
  • Red Devils beaten by Chelsea at Wembley in 2023
  • Marc Skinner speaks about using the pain as a tool
Marc Skinner has taken Man Utd back to Women's FA Cup final
Marc Skinner has taken Man Utd back to Women's FA Cup final / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages

Manchester United are hoping to use the pain of losing last season's Women's FA Cup final as fuel in their quest for silverware as they head back to Wembley for the 2024 final this weekend.

Marc Skinner's side were Wembley debutants this time last year but were left wondering 'what if' after Leah Galton's early goal was disallowed and other chances went begging. Chelsea eventually got the better of them when Pernille Harder, once the most expensive female player in the world, changed the game from the bench and went on to set up the only goal of the final for Sam Kerr.

It was a devastating moment for Skinner, his players and staff as they watched, arm-in-arm on the turf, Chelsea climb the steps to receive their winners’ medals and lift the trophy.

"It has to feed into it," Skinner said ahead of United's second chance, this time against Tottenham Hotspur, as he looks back on what happened in 2023.

"When that hurt [of losing] hits, and you can feel and recall it, it can be an extra motivating factor. That's how you have to use it. We have to remember, bring back those feelings, and give more and give more and give more. Nobody is guaranteed to win this final, but what we have to do is give everything to make sure the performance is worthy of it. If we do that and use those experiences and the feeling of it to drive us forward, hopefully that will give us a little edge."

For Skinner, whose father suffered heart attack the day before last season's final, the feeling of defeat was all too familiar. He had previously taken former club Birmingham City to Wembley in 2017 final against Manchester City, losing heavily in front of a then record crowd.

Ahead of last season's final, Skinner admitted there was naivety in Birmingham's preparation – he was less than six months into his first senior management role at the time. But it was also extremely painful and that still hasn't left him in the seven years that have now since passed.

Marc Skinner
Man Utd had to watch Chelsea lift the FA Cup last season / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

"Naturally, nobody wants to feel those experiences on a national stage," the United boss reflected as he heads back to Wembley for what he hopes will be his third time lucky.

"It's part of competitive sport. I think you grow up and mature. It never gets easier, but it's part and parcel of the game so you learn the pressures of it. There was an Eddie Howe interview with Gary Neville and they talk about how managers have to be bulletproof.

"We're also human. I think it would be unnatural for me not to feel and be devastated by a loss, but I've always known that losses make you stronger and the strength you need to succeed in the long-term is understanding dealing with failure.

"That first final [with Birmingham], I never watched the game back because it hurt. But you learn to deal with your emotions when you feel that and that's important because I'm human. It builds you and it's built resilience in me that I need for my job, the career that I've chosen.

"What you learn is when you feel those moments and the disappointment, you can still take action and still think. I'm asking experienced players to think in moments and so do I – and I think that's where you grow in these games."