Manchester United Women have finally announced the appointment of their new head coach Marc Skinner.
Speculation was all-but-confirmed last week when Skinner announced his immediate departure from Orlando Pride, amid rumours he was set to replace Casey Stoney.
The club have taken their time in announcing the new manager and had been under some public pressure to find a replacement with greater urgency. This has been compounded by a number of key players also leaving, which sowed doubts over the direction United were taking the team, who are a relative newcomers to the women’s game. Those already gone from United include US duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press, alongside young English hot-shot Lauren James.
However, the arrival of someone of Skinner’s calibre will bring some optimism the club intends to invest in order to continue their bid for success. Last season was proof the Red Devils can compete with the top women’s clubs in England, although they fell just short, running out of stamina and failing to produce the necessary quality at the end of the campaign.
Now United have a known replacement, preparations will need to be accelerated for the beginning of the new season, which is expected to start on the weekend of September 3, with United starting their FAWSL season against Reading on September 5.
Teams are a few weeks into their pre-season with another competitive year anticipated, and Skinner’s appointment will now enable the club to prepare with a bit more purpose and direction.
Skinner comes with experience in the top-flight of English domestic football, having spent a consistent spell with Birmingham City before his time in America with Orlando. Having been in charge at the Blues between 2016 and 2019, he has a good understanding of the English league, although the demands of the FAWSL have certainly increased since then.
The professionalism in the game has grown, and with a club like United the resources at hand should be second-to-none and as such will come with high expectations.
Although the departure of Stoney came with some criticism surrounding the treatment of the women’s programme in Manchester, I would hope this has been addressed over the summer after the club publicly announced their intentions to enhance things.
Covid-19 restrictions last year was an easy cop out for clubs to excuse the lack of resources and professional treatment afforded to their women’s programmes, however, this won’t wash now as football returns closer to normality.
Two of the United’s latest signings include Scotland forward Martha Thomas, who joins from West Ham, alongside former Manchester City defender Aoife Mannion.
Mannion will be pleased to be reunited with her former coach, after both worked together during their time at Birmingham. Then, Mannion was a youth England internationalist and her move to Manchester City was expected take her into the senior set-up. However, her time with City has been disrupted by a long rehabilitation from a knee injury and a new start could be perfect timing for both her and United.
Pain of Olympics exit will be all too familiar for some Team GB stars
Team GB fell short of making it to the medal stages at the Tokyo Olympics after an extra-time defeat to Australia in the last-eight yesterday, which finished 4-3.
While some may have over-analysed the potential opponents ahead of the quarter-finals, arguably there wasn’t ever an “easy” draw for Team GB given the few teams left in the event, all the quarter-finalists came with their own pedigree. Playing Australia was a tie which clearly posed a tricky test.
Two players who many of the GB squad will be familiar with were on the scoresheet for the Aussies in normal time. Reading’s Alanna Kennedy put the Matildas in front, before an 88th-minute trademark finish from Chelsea’s Sam Kerr took the game to extra-time, wiping out Ellen White’s double for Team GB in the 90 minutes in the process.
Once again, White has shown her ability to perform on the top stage, with the England international getting all three of Team GB’s goals during the tie. Astonishingly, her six goals made up all-but-one of Team GB’s seven in the competition.
However, White’s hat-trick wasn’t enough to help her side progress. Before she netted her third in the additional 30 minutes, Mary Fowler had scored and a second from Kerr had given Australia a 4-2 cushion.
For those few Team GB players, including Mintlaw’s Kim Little, who were involved in the 2012 Games, the pain of their exit will feel all too familiar.
The performances during the group stage had consolidated ambitions the team could win a medal, however, those hopes have been ended excruciatingly at the same stage again.
Dons Women prepare for top flight tilt
Aberdeen Women have begun their pre-season training ahead of the new season. The side will remain largely similar to the one which earned consecutive promotions back to the top flight of Scottish football.
Returning to the club is Donna Paterson, who will bring depth across the backline and midfield. The former Scotland youth international left the club back in 2018 after being captured by Glasgow City, before spending time with Forfar Farmington more recently.
Meanwhile, tickets are now available for all of Scotland’s Women’s World Cup qualifiers. The team will play three games at Hampden Park, starting on September 21 against the Faroe Islands.