Manchester United’s first big test of the WSL season was presented when Chelsea visited Leigh Sports Village before the recent international break and they finished runners-up.
It was a fairly even first hour and they fought close, before United’s mistake in possession was punished on the back by a Chelsea goal. Barely any more time passed before Chelsea doubled their lead by finishing off a swift and ruthless counter-attack.
Having been very much in the game until Chelsea scored, United were their archenemy.
The fact that Mark Skinner’s side mustered a goal so cruelly through Alessia Russo, punishing Chelsea in almost identical fashion as they were caught earlier, showed that they an act Have them compete with the biggest WSL league teams.
United have been very close to Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City in the past without making a permanent move to that level.
They beat City early in October 2019 and have lost by just one goal in their other two meetings that season. It was supposed to be a victory in the Manchester United derby last season, as it conceded a late equalizer against City, consisting of 10 players, while Skinner’s team dominated the first half of the FA Cup match without taking advantage of it, and then surrendered after the end of the first half.
There was also a draw with Chelsea back in September 2020, and United twice took the lead against the soon-to-be title winners on the final day of last season, before competing on equal terms for two-thirds of said fixture earlier this month.
United beat Arsenal for the first time in November 2020 and last season were the only team to walk out of Arsenal’s usual Meadow Park with anything other than defeat in the Women’s Football League. Realistically, they should have won that game but lacked the clinical advantage to extend their lead, then leaked the equalizer against Arsenal to 10 men.
It goes to show that the gap isn’t really that big at all, but in games of this size and against high quality opposition, the last bit is the hardest to close.
“It’s not about taking those little positives, forget it. It’s about going through those games and saying, ‘If we don’t double those moments, you’re not going to win a football game anyway,'” Skinner said.
“That’s where the best teams live, in between those little classes, and that’s where I want our team to live.”
The task scale is large. Arsenal may not have faced a top four player last season yet, but they have the momentum from crushing an injury-hit Lyon side in the Champions League and amassing a 14-consecutive WSL victory stretching into January. Victories breed confidence in football, and confidence at any level is an incredible weapon.
However, there is a soft spot as Arsenal are missing both their favorite central defender and most important midfielder due to injuries.
“We need to be tight at one end and make sure we make a lot of progress at the other,” Skinner explained, as United, who have not lost consecutive WSL matches since February 2021, seek their fourth straight away win in the league. .
“We need to show our character with the ball I know we have. What I mean by character: it’s the constant courage to perform in tight positions in 1v1 and win our duels against a very good team.”
After defeating Chelsea, it was The principled United boss was defiant in his response He transformed his team’s style of play and built up possession from behind, instead discovering the importance of playing smarter in those situations rather than abandoning the philosophy altogether.
Above all, getting away with mistakes and lapses at key moments will be key to a good result at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. United’s lapses at key moments and lack of ruthlessness last season against Everton, Tottenham and West Ham cost them Champions League football, but that wasn’t the case against two of the same teams this time around. Shows vital progress.
United now need to ensure they show the same progression against the next caliber of opposition.