Man Utd enjoy perfect preparation for Women's FA Cup final

Marc Skinner was pleased with how his team managed the WSL win over Tottenham
Marc Skinner was pleased with how his team managed the WSL win over Tottenham / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Manchester United couldn’t have asked for a much better way to temporarily sign off from WSL duty as they now turn attention to Sunday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley, than the way the team cruised to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Tottenham.

United came into this season aiming to secure a top three WSL finish and Champions League qualification for the first time – something they have all but achieved following Manchester City’s shock defeat against Liverpool – but are instead now in a fight for a league and cup double.

Chelsea are the team that stand in their way on both fronts. The Blues are looking to win a third successive FA Cup and will make it four WSL titles in a row if they win all remaining league games. They are also the only side that United have faced in a competitive game but never yet beaten.

But confidence is extremely high within Marc Skinner’s squad. They have grown enormously over the space of the last 12 months, developing a battle-hardened resilience that wasn’t there last season when too many dropped points late in games against mid-table teams cost them dearly.

The games against Brighton and Aston Villa alone in April, both 3-2 wins decided by late goals, show that, as does the way they were able to grind out a 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

Tottenham was a different kind of encounter that United were largely in control of for 90 minutes and was a calmer way of boosting confidence ahead of the biggest match in the club’s short history.

Spurs had chances – Bethany England was only denied what would have been a surprise opener by a last ditch Maya Le Tissier tackle, while Celin Bizet Ildhusoy hit the post and Mary Earps made a double save in the second half to stop Mana Iwabuchi and Rosella Ayane. But United played with tempo and intensity from the start and always seemed like they could score at any moment.

The nature of the goals were clinical. Hannah Blundell’s high press forced a mistake from ex-United defender Amy Turner to present the opener on a plate for Leah Galton, her 10th in the WSL of this outstanding individual season, with Alessia Russo taking no prisoners when she volleyed in from a corner barely a couple of minutes later. That one-two punch was a killer blow for Spurs.

It was early in the second half when Nikita Parris scored the third, taking full advantage of Tottenham failing to deal with a cross into the box, and effectively ended the game as a context in well under an hour. It was a functional and clinical performance from United, never needing to hit top gear to get the result in impressive fashion and leaving plenty in the tank for Wembley.

Read the latest Man Utd Women news here


Katie Zelem had a rare day off, suspended following an accumulation of yellow cards. Vilde Boe Risa filled in superbly, showing Skinner and the coaching staff that she can more than hold her own as a central midfielder in the WSL – the United boss was particularly impressed by the way she and partner in crime Hayley Ladd consistently and aggressively shut Spurs down.

There also opportunity for Skinner to make full use of his bench and withdraw several key players well before the end. Galton, Le Tissier and Ella Toone were taken off with almost 20 minutes to go, while there was even a long-awaited United debt for January signing Jayde Riviere, a player the club have big hopes for over the coming few seasons.

Freshness will be key against a Chelsea side that may struggle for it, having played 13 times across three competitions since 5 March and still due in action once more before the FA Cup final. Over that same period of time, United have played five games fewer.

“I didn’t think we were at our very best. The chances Tottenham had, we gave them. We were a little bit naïve at times, but the reason I bring that up is I’m driving standards,” Skinner said as he reflected on the nature of the performance against Spurs.

“But I’m really pleased if I look at it: most points we’ve ever achieved in a season, the best clean sheet record we’ve equalled, three different goalscorers, three points. There is loads of magnificent stuff, but it would be complacent to think we were at the very, very best of ourselves.

“There are things we can tweak going into the final next week, which will be a different game, but I want us to stay on our toes.”

In that sense, Skinner likened his job to tuning a guitar. “If your notes are off, you’ve got to keep adjusting,” he said. “But we’re so close and I want to keep my side of the bargain and make sure we’re ready for games.

“We’re the epitome of a team – we play, attack and defend for each other – and I think that is what’s so special about this team. As we progress in our experience, our players are growing and we will recruit players of the elite level so we can be very dangerous.”

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter