Marc Skinner has got Manchester United up while rivals City are suffering

Marc Skinner has got Manchester United up while rivals City are suffering … it’s role reversal with six points that separates them in the WSL on their way into derby day

  • In the Women’s Super League this weekend, there’s a Manchester derby
  • The two clubs are in contrasting fortunes on their way into the match
  • While Marc Skinner has Man United on the way up, Gareth Taylor’s City is slipping


During a two-year stint in which he led some of the best players in the women’s match in the United States, new Manchester United manager Marc Skinner experienced some of the antipathy associated with a game like his first Manchester derby on Saturday.

There was no love lost between his Orlando Pride side and the Houston Dash. Brazilian Marta – one of Skinner’s players – and England’s Rachel Daly – from the opposition – did not hide their mutual enmity. ‘They just did not like each other at all,’ says one source.

But what really connects Skinner’s two and a half years in the US with his current job of restoring a lost credibility at United is the weight of expectation. So visceral was the criticism of the Englishman when Orlando finished at the bottom of the National Women’s Soccer League in his first season that he disappeared from Twitter where he had been in contact with fans.

Marc Skinner makes a difference at Manchester United as they improve his watch

Marc Skinner makes a difference at Manchester United as they improve his watch

His reputation for improving the players technically is evident in their bright start to the season

His reputation for improving the players technically is evident in their bright start to the season

Many of them wanted him away from the club, which had superstar Alex Morgan in their ranks. It says a lot about the way players seem to react to him that he not only stayed but left many of the team disappointed when he took the United job in July.

Skinner, who was a teacher at Solihull College, was known in Florida for the way he helped players improve technically.

These are the qualities needed at United, where Casey Stoney’s departure as manager in the summer followed by the highly regarded 19-year-old Lauren James (now at Chelsea) and vice-captain Amy Turner (who crossed for Orlando) happened due to a feeling , that United have not provided adequate facilities for the women’s team.

Skinner has built a young team around 22-year-old English striker Alessia Russo. Ella Toone and Ona Batlle have also impressed.

The results have been far better than expected for a side that did not get Skinner on board until July. They sit fourth with three wins from four.

Skinner (left) is eager to work with young players and they thrive under his coaching

Skinner (left) is eager to work with young players and they thrive under his coaching

But City, who invested far more, have struggled. With three defeats in four, the ninths are a serious underachievement.

A coach who knows Skinner well feels that he has helped things by accepting the resources he has, no matter how inadequate the training path of Portakabins may be.

‘He is relentlessly positive and that is what United have needed,’ said the coach. Rails seem to thrive in adversity. He has the Latin phrase per aspera ad astra (through hardships to the stars) tattooed on his arm.

Difficulties in the United States were uniquely difficult during his disastrous season. He lost Morgan when she became pregnant, and star defender Toni Pressley, who successfully battled breast cancer, plus a bunch of players for the 2019 World Cup and this summer’s Olympics.

On the flip side, it has been a serious under-pair start to the season of Manchester City

On the flip side, it has been a serious under-pair start to the season of Manchester City

‘People felt it could not get worse. It helped him create a backs-to-the-wall spirit, ”says the coach who knows him.

Pearls of wisdom from Muhammad Ali, Michael J Fox and Paulo Coelho were part of his Twitter output in Birmingham City, where in the mid-20s he arrived at the club’s center of excellence and met his wife Laura Bassett, the former English international.

Bassett left Chelsea before Skinner became manager. They have a two-year-old daughter, and Skinner found transatlantic separation difficult in the pandemic.

It remains to be seen if he wants the tactical name to take United to the heights. One theme in Orlando is that he did not change the system when things were not going well.

‘He will be like a squirrel with a nut, where he is completely preoccupied with the details of the tactical approach he has gone after,’ says a source. ‘But sometimes what was needed in Orlando was a change in that approach rather than going for it over and over again.’

But for now, building United’s women’s team is enough.

Gareth Taylor's (right) side looks out of place as they go into a derby against United this week

Gareth Taylor’s (right) side looks out of place as they go into a derby against United this week

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