“I feel alive”: Man Utd boss on pressure and what the title race is teaching him
It has been the most exciting title race the Women’s Super League has ever seen and, with just four games to go, Manchester United boss Marc Skinner opened up on what he has learnt about himself during it.
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Rewind back to exactly a year ago and Marc Skinner’s Manchester United side were in a vastly different position, mindset and stage in their progression.
A disappointing away draw with Aston Villa, coupled with a final day defeat to Chelsea saw his side slip out of the top three in the WSL meaning there was no be no European football, no Champions League and at 14 points adrift from champions Chelsea - certainly nowhere near a first league title.
While the rest of country celebrated England’s historic win at Euro 2022, Skinner was hard at work ensuring the pain that came with the previous season’s failure was something they no longer needed to face. They may have been formed only four years previous but the name Manchester United carries a standard and Skinner and his players knew the pressure was now firmly on them to produce.
Fast forward to May 2023 and United are the cusp of a league and cup double. With that comes a different kind of pressure, but as success edges ever closer, Skinner - like his side - are revelling it in.
“I feel I’m dealing a lot better with pressure than I have done previously, if I reflect. You learn to deal with what it is (pressure) than what the word entails to most” reflected the 40-year-old boss when we asked him what this year has taught him about himself.
“Everyone throws the pressure point like that should be a negative, everyone says ‘you’re under pressure, you have to win this and that’ but yeah...we know! It is why I turn up everyday to do my job” he adds.
And the proof is in the pudding. Twice in his side’s last three games they have delved deep inside of themselves to produce a last gasp winner. One of them, at Aston Villa, kept them top of the pile, the other against Brighton sent them to their first FA Cup final at Wembley. The other? A 1-0 win over top three rivals Arsenal. When the going gets tough, this Manchester United side are showing they are a different animal to what we have seen before.
Akin to his team on the pitch, Skinner admits the pressure that comes hand in hand with the fine margins of a title race is far from giving him sleepless night - it is actually helping him get up in the morning.
“I am learning about that and the new challenges that are coming with the growth of the women’s game and it coming so quick, the way agents are now operating, the way recruitment strategies are trying to stay ahead of the game.
“I’m also - if I’m completely honest - trying to balance some normality time. Seeing my family, watching my daughter grow up. I think I’ll need about 10,000 holidays in the summer to get over it. But I love it, I feel alive although it is probably killing me - I do feel alive every day.
“Once the season ends, I’ll have a proper reflection. What I want to do is be able to treat people right, I want to be the person they come to even if they don’t get their decision making right. That’s hard sometimes but we’ve gone down the deep and meaningful this morning, so there’s my answer.”