Marc Skinner press conference: Team news vs Aston Villa; return to Old Trafford; Man Utd takeover; Kirsty Hanson

Jamie Spencer
Marc Skinner's Man Utd will host Aston Villa in a special WSL clash at Old Trafford
Marc Skinner's Man Utd will host Aston Villa in a special WSL clash at Old Trafford / Harriet Lander/GettyImages

Manchester United return to WSL action on Saturday when they host Aston Villa in a special game at Old Trafford, set to play in front of a club record crowd and looking to build on the momentum of a landmark win over Arsenal in their last outing in mid-November.

Marc Skinner field questions from journalists at a press conference on Tuesday.

Read on for the full transcript of everything he had to say…

Team news vs Aston Villa

“There are no [new] injuries. The squad is full to pick from.”

Playing at Old Trafford during Premier League break

“We know how busy the schedule is at Old Trafford and we knew it’s not just us and the men that play there…the youth team play there in the cups and so on. It’s obviously important to have a nice balance when the accessibility is – it’s the perfect opportunity while the men’s World Cup is on.

“We understand our place in terms of the growth of the game. We want to get to a stage where we sell out Old Trafford as a team, regardless of gender. That’s what we’re working towards and I think it’s okay to work towards it and not expect it to be right in this moment.

“It’s a continuous project [and] we’ve got to keep showing the fans – against Arsenal we did a world of good – the qualities that we can have against a very, very good team.

“This is important, if you don’t put a good spectacle on, why would people want to come and watch it? That is our responsibility. Our fans will come out in their hordes to support our team and we all have a responsibility to grow the game.”

Old Trafford tickets sold

“We have [sold] around 30,000 [tickets], if not more, so it is rising. Obviously, we would still love lots and lots more, but it’s a wonderful number.

“If you meet 10 Manchester United fans, they make it sound like there are 10,000. Obviously, I want to sell as many tickets as possible and it will continue to grow. I don’t have a figure [of tickets we want to sell] because we just want to keep putting great performances on so we can fill out Old Trafford going forward – that’s the ultimate aim for us.

“We know it takes a bit of time. The more and more exposure we have from media, it shows people the qualities. The [Arsenal] game was a wonderful advert for women’s football, for football in general. Every fan loves that comeback story, the last gasp goal, the celebration and the away fans together. I think that was a big step up for women’s football in terms of having that designated area because I think it felt different when we were there.

“But that’s why we need to progress…we’re not there right now. We need to keep working at. We’ll do our side and make sure we put on something everyone wants to come and watch.

Old Trafford preparations

“You have to prepare, regardless of the pitch we play on, to find a way to win. Of course, we’re playing at Old Trafford. Leigh Sports Village is the same size pitch, it just feels different because you’ve got the stands going up, so it looks a bit different.

“What I hope the Arsenal and Chelsea experience we’re getting is giving us a space to operate more clearly in those bigger moments when psychological pressure is a little bit more. It gives us more time to act in those space and I think we’re doing better at that.

“When there’s a bit more noise and pressure, can we still manage those moments? Those are the biggest signs for us because those are the biggest tests of our season.”

Confidence from beating Arsenal

“It’s brilliant, we have to use the positive energy from it. More importantly, it’s experience from that moment. You’re not always going to score those goals and it turn out that way, but what I was really impressed with from the team that it was never say die…we were going to keep trying to score and get a result from the game. That’s the biggest difference.

“Against Chelsea, I felt it took us [until going] two goals down to wake up because we played within ourselves. Against Arsenal, we learned from that and I want to see that again in this game – it doesn’t matter whether it's Aston Villa, Arsenal or Chelsea, it was a sign for us to ourselves that, actually, we have to impose our game on the opponent. Once you’re in that space, it’s a lovely space to be.

“That’s what I’ve reminded the players of this week. Of course, they’re buoyant from the win, but it was more importantly the collective nature of the win. Results come and go, we know that, but performances are things I can measure and the performance was very, very good against Arsenal and we need to take it into this game, definitely.”

Not playing for two weeks since beating Arsenal

“Has the break come at a bad time? Not really. We’ve kept training competitive, got everybody fit going into this run of four games, which is quite tight.

"It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we’re competitive within the team because that’s the real driving factor for us. I’ve said this before, whether it’s a loss going into a break, or a win going into a break, it’s about us taking charge of momentum.

“Momentum isn’t something given to us, we have to create it. Regardless of how long ago the Arsenal game was, we have to take that quality into this huge game too.”

Facing an improving Aston Villa

“[Aston Villa] are progressing and investing. Even from their results this year and the players they’ve signed, they’re putting themselves in a position to be talked about within the realms of the best teams in the league. It’s a challenge anyway. We know their qualities and the progression route they’re taking. For us, this is not about anything other than putting our best efforts into this game.

“We love to play at Old Trafford but, regardless, it’s about performance. We did it against Arsenal and we want to see that consistency in big games of taking the process to the opponent. There is no way we are taking this lightly.”

Working in a young & vibrant WSL coaching scene

“I’m 39, if that’s young then happy days! I think [Aston Villa manager] Carla [Ward] would say the same, it’s not really about us. It’s about the teams and what we put out, how we prepare the players and everybody’s collective effort. If we’re seen as [young coaching talent] then very well, but it’s not about that for me. It’s about putting something on the field."

Managing uncertainty regarding potential Man Utd takeover

“Business as usual, that’s the clear message. We are here to do the job of pushing this team as far as we can: the continue to look for recruitment, the continue to drive the standards. Polly [Bancroft] has just come in. For us, honestly, it’s business as usual.

“The experts will do their job to put this club in the best situation because that’s what it is there do.”

Impact of away sections in the WSL

“Because of the amount of tickets sold and being at these bigger stadiums, [Arsenal] was the first full experience I was aware of.

“Our fans are super noisy wherever they are, so I can hear them all the time, but having them all compacted into a certain area where they’re together celebrating, that’s what football is about. It’s about two teams going head to head, fan rivalries and the narratives around that.

“I was asked a question after the game and I didn’t reflect on it until we went away because you’re caught in the moment. I felt it was magnificent, when I reflect on it, watch the game back and see all the players when we scored that third goal running to our fans. That was the electrifying moment.

“The goal going in is part of the process, but the celebration together was the biggest moment for us. I would absolutely recommend it. As our game grows, more and more teams will have those amounts of fans and it will be a real great space for everyone to be in. It was a great energy and really something special."

Kirsty Hanson’s loan at Aston Villa

“All the players that are out on loan currently are being watched. We have dossiers on them, we talk to the coaching staff and I get reports of what I need to watch.

“Kirsty is doing exactly what we know Kirsty can do – big spaces, so direct, really good in 1vs1 situations. The challenge is, once the game gets tighter, keeping those qualities we know she has. Her movement skills are unbelievable. I’ve been really impressed with what she’s doing.

“I’m glad she’s happy in terms of playing because she’s showing that. She’s a great talent and I didn’t expect anything less really.”

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