Man Utd 'thinking ahead' to busy March after FA Cup progress

Marc Skinner tweaked his usual Man Utd XI in the win over Durham
Marc Skinner tweaked his usual Man Utd XI in the win over Durham / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Manchester United manager Marc Skinner has explained his team selection against Durham in the Women’s FA Cup fifth round was influenced by ‘looking ahead’ towards a busy March that see the club play four games across two competitions.

Skinner has had the most settled side in the WSL this season but opted to rest both Ella Toone and Alessia Russo for the visit of second tier Durham, who were eventually sent packing 5-0.

The game also marked a start for popular Norwegian midfielder Vilde Boe Risa, who scored a sensational free-kick to break stubborn Durham resilience, as well as Martha Thomas. Adriana Leon came off the bench in the second half after missing out on recent squads, as did Aoife Mannion for her first competitive senior minutes since suffering an ACL injury in February 2022.

With February’s games now over, United will face Leicester, Chelsea and West Ham in a crucial month of WSL clashes - the latter a second Old Trafford outing this season, as well as an FA Cup quarter-final against whoever they are paired with in the upcoming draw.

“It was thinking ahead,” Skinner said of changing things up slightly.

“We’re looking at what the next [games] might look like in terms of opportunities we might need, how we start and finish games. We had some foresight and it’s worked out well.

“Vilde had got a goal and although I thought Martha didn’t get much service she stretched the line for us – a different kind of dynamic to when Alessia comes on. It’s nice to see Dri come into game as well. It’s about trying to change dynamic and looking ahead.”

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Skinner was satisfied with the differing nature of the goals on display against Durham – a free-kick, a couple from corners, one defence-splitting pass and another worked around the edge of the box. The all-round Durham performance highlights the variety of options in the squad.

“Leicester will try and come at us, I’m sure, but they will block at some points and then Chelsea will come at us. We’ve got to have variance to go behind, to build, to slow [things down], just all these different things that have to go through your brain for a gameplan,” Skinner said.

“The beauty is I can now have those conversations – last year I felt we were a little bit one-dimensional.”

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