England legend Karen Carney has revealed that Manchester United have become her favourite WSL team to watch and has praised the ‘amazing job’ done by Marc Skinner in his first year at the club.
United didn’t have the ideal preparation for this season, with Casey Stoney surprisingly resigning at the end of the previous campaign and a deal for Skinner not completed until late July – only five weeks before 2021/22 kicked off in early September.
But it became increasingly clear as the season progressed that the new boss was putting his own stamp on the squad and that there is potential to compete with the WSL’s established big three – Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City – in the long-term.
United eventually saw a place in the top three and Champions League qualification slip away in the final weeks of the season, having ultimately dropped too many points from winning positions in tiny moments. Yet Carney, who won trophies with Arsenal, Birmingham and Chelsea during an illustrious career, has been impressed by a journey that is still just in its very early stages.
“I think he’s done an amazing job, I really, really do,” she said of Skinner to 90min.
“I have actually said they’re my favourite WSL team to watch. I really like what they do, I like their young players, how they press, how they’re evolving. In the first part of the season, they were still trying figure it out, went one way and tried to change it up.”
United went into the final day of the WSL season earlier this month needing to beat Chelsea for the first time ever to have a chance of securing a third place finish. Despite the Blues needing a win themselves to be sure of the title, Skinner’s side took the lead twice before succumbing to defeat.
“You saw in the first half against Chelsea they can get to those levels but haven’t got the depth of the squad and are still young in the WSL,” Carney explained.
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The 34-year-old also suggested that the size of Manchester United as a club may have caused expectations to bolt, when actually the task of breaking up the top three is a very difficult one.
United only reformed a senior women’s team in 2018 and have completed just two full top flight seasons after the 2019/20 campaign was abandoned amid the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re still fairly new to the league,” Carney added, referring to a lack of general experience. “Because of the brand name of Manchester United there is such a big expectation on them. But the top three in the WSL have not changed since 2015, so to break into that is really, really hard.
“The depth isn’t there and they’re still quite a few players off, I think. You look at the other three teams above them and they’ve got two players for every position, all top internationals. The level to get to that is going to be so hard. I think we sometimes judge the team because of the name. To break that top three shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
Carney has a lot of time for Skinner generally, having worked with him in the past. They never directly coincided as player and manager, but he was in and around the Birmingham setup when the winger was with the club and occasionally helped her with one-on-one training sessions.
“He’s awesome and is just born to be a top coach,” Carney said. “I knew him from the academy at Birmingham. He’s a really good guy and I can’t speak highly enough of him. I’ve never seen what he does in the dressing room [as a manager] but I have picked his brains a lot throughout the years and I like his football psyche - I think it’s really interesting.”
Karen Carney was speaking to 90min in conjunction with the announcement of the PFA Vertu Motors WSL Fans' Player of the Year nominations. You can vote for the winner here.