Manchester United have finally reached the League Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history after beating Arsenal 1-0 at Meadow Park.
They had just one win in their five previous meetings with the London side. Now, the Red Devils are in the midst of a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions, having kept their sheet clean in as many games.
United have managed to draw the spotlight on themselves, but what are the reasons behind their recent form?
Put some respect on Marc Skinner’s nameEmbed from Getty Images
The departure of Casey Stoney left a huge void in Manchester United’s head coaching position. Many candidates considered that void as a potential obstacle in their aspiring careers, considering how “quiet” the Red Devils were during the summer break.
After two and a half seasons in Orlando, Marc Skinner made his WSL return to take over at United. It was an opportunity for him to put his experience from the other side of the Atlantic to good use.
After 11 games, Manchester United are now in the third spot of the league table. They have the same amount of points as second place Chelsea, who have played two games less.
“Just pride, absolute pride with the work ethic, the togetherness, the commitment to everything we’ve asked,” the 38-years-old manager told MUTV after his side proceeded in the League Cup semi-finals.
“What we’re starting to see now is a power from within. We’re not looking at what the opponent can do to us, we are feeling our own strengths,” Skinner added, patently shivering with anticipation of what comes next.
The build up from the back and the suitable systemEmbed from Getty Images
The wide use of the 4-2-3-1 system with Katie Zelem and Hayley Ladd in the low defensive midfield area frees up a vast area of space to the attacking unit.
Ella Toone, Lucy Staniforth, Vilde Bøe Risa, Alessia Russo and Leah Galton look unstoppable in the attack. They have scored more than half of Manchester United’s goals (15) and share nine assists in 11 games.
Their scoring pluralism is merely an outcome of their pressing game high on the pitch. We have watched Liverpool men’s side doing a dreadful lot of running in a tactical approach named “gegenpress”. In Manchester United’s case, the defenders play a vital role in pressing the receiving player in the middle third, hoping to steal the ball and feed the offensive line.
In fact, Manchester United seem the most vulnerable in the defence. They have the worst defensive record among the four top teams on the FAWSL table, having conceded 13 goals so far.
But Skinner believes in his players and, as he stated after the game against Arsenal, “[The players] believe in what we’re doing. […] Unbelievable, but one step closer is just the one step closer.”
For the Red Devil’s manager, consistency and patience is the key to success. His players’ evolution is proving this point true.
Toone’s development during Skinner’s time at the wheel is one key example of that. After she and Skinner bagged the Player and Manager of the Month awards last month, respectively, the 22-year-old forward has a shot at the POTY award at the end of the season. So far, she counts six goals and five assists in 16 games in all competitions.
United’s chances for silverware this seasonEmbed from Getty Images
For the first time in their history, Manchester United are on the verge of greatness. But as the former Orlando Pride manager said, “The next task is Tottenham. We won’t look past that, we won’t think about the final”.
As the ancient Greeks used to say, “το δις εξαμαρτείν ουκ ανδρός σοφού” [The wise man does not make the same mistake twice]. Skinner acknowledges the mistake he had done back in his Birmingham managing days, when “he made the FA Cup final too big.”
The Red Devils will play Chelsea in the semis for a place in their first Cup final in history. Their last game against the Blues left the Devils in sorrow, after retrieving the ball from the back of the net six times.