Manchester United manager Marc Skinner wants a ‘reaction’ from his team following recent back-to-back defeats to Manchester City, as they prepare to face Leicester in the WSL on Saturday.
With every single point absolutely crucial in the fierce battle for a Champions League place, United were narrowly beaten by City in the league just before the international break. Last weekend, a second half collapse against the same opposition then resulted in FA Cup elimination.
Skinner was particularly disappointed after that heavy defeat at how his team, having dominated the first half, lost the aggression and intensity that had made them so good until the break.
Now, as United prepare to face an improving Leicester side that sprung an upset at Leigh Sports Village in the Continental Cup in December, he wants his player to come out fighting.
“I want to see a reaction from the previous game against Manchester City. I want to see those duels, aggression, be on the front foot and right time, and hit spaces,” Skinner explained.
“I’m expecting a tough game, but I prepare our team to be in a tough game every week. It’s about not taking your eyes off anyone based on their league position. Leicester are suggesting they should be above [11th] based on their performances. We’ll be very diligent in our preparation.
“Now that we’ve put [last weekend] to bed, that’s a fuel that we have to have. I’m trying to build a team that has the mental aptitude in moments when it gets sticky.”
Having narrowly missed out on Champions League football under Casey Stoney, Skinner’s United have seen expectations remains high, particularly after winning four straight WSL games across December and January – that run gave Skinner two manager of the month awards.
“I’m a big believer that once you accept that [high expectation] is what you’re up against and don’t hide from it, you can use that as a very powerful tool to motivate you,” he explained.
“People say we should win the games that are coming up and go on a good run – I don’t believe that we should do anything. We have to, that’s the difference. I think the mentality we choose is really important. We talk about the psychology of football – if we don’t turn up against Leicester and squeeze every last bit out of our performance, we don’t deserve to beat Leicester.
“I just don’t lose sight of what we’ve got coming next and I think they’re a really powerful opponent, so I’m just preparing my team to be all in on that. Then, if we do that, I believe we’re going to do what [people] say we should do anyway.
“I think if you want to be a successful team you have to live and deal with pressure. That’s part of our daily life and the more you experience it, the more you get used to it.”