Manchester United had beaten Arsenal twice before Saturday’s clash at the World Series of Poker at Emirates Stadium – once in the league under former boss Casey Stoney in November 2020, and once last season in the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup.
Both were narrow 1-0 wins and both were important steps forward in the club’s short history.
But United have suffered just as much setbacks in such fixtures in recent years, not just against Arsenal, but Manchester City and Chelsea too as they try to permanently bridge the gap in the WSL’s entrenched elite.
Looking back to last season, they lost at home to Arsenal in the league. In the reverse fixture, they were on their way to what could have been a historic win but missed the opportunity to finish the game and then concede a draw against just 10 players.
There have been similar stories of being unable to put together a full performance over 90 minutes, leading the big games only partially, and ultimately disappointing. The same was true of Chelsea on the final day of last season, twice leading at Kingsmeadow before the more experienced and ultimately ruthless Blues swept to victory.
When Chelsea visited Lee Sports Village two weeks agoIt was an hour long game. But a short delay gave Chelsea a goal and minutes later they had a brace.
There was a lot of riding on a Saturday night in the Emirates. Regardless of five straight wins to start the campaign, United could not afford a second defeat in quick succession against a major rival. Chelsea and Arsenal were both ahead of them after the last round of matches and Manchester City were surging from behind – they secured their fifth successive win earlier on Saturday.
Everything was going well for Manchester United in the first half in North London. They did more with the ball and deserved to be ahead in the first half after Ella Ton broke the deadlock. But the second half threatened to be the same frustrating story fans have seen many times before.
Arsenal equalized within minutes of the restart and eventually began to build up the pressure. The Gunners then took the lead through Laura Firweather with less than 20 minutes left in the game.
United had previously tried to fight back when losing 2-0 to Chelsea, but it was too little too late, while memories of the second-half collapse and eventual heavy defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup last season despite their dominance in the first 45 no. still exist. ulceration.
But in the UAE, this united team has grown. They got back to Arsenal, with Millie Turner scoring a shot to equalize with just a few minutes remaining, then Alicia Russo sending the traveling United fans heading home in an injury-time win. Katie Zelm helped both of them.
“I am the happiest man on the planet,” said manager Mark Skinner. Sky Sports Right after the final whistle, having overseen the club’s best and most important win to date.
“What we lose with other big teams is experience. But nights like tonight make us have that experience. We got the tough nature, the brains, the maturity and the growth from the team.”
In the post-match press conference, the United boss spoke of the psychological boost to a first-ever Premier League title win away from home against one of the Big Three.
“It’s huge in terms of experience,” he explained. “I think we decided we didn’t want to leave the game without showing our courage and character.
“When I look at the famous Manchester United team in the men’s team, it’s about never letting go. Our job is to put women under the same banner that we might go down but we’re never defeated. That’s a great shot in the arm for our experience.”
Now that they have this result and that performance under their belt, and especially the nature of it, Skinner United have to take this and run with it. The confidence and belief they will have not only now, but will have a long term impact after a mental block is removed.
In the struggle for the top three and football in the Champions League, maybe even more, this is simply huge.