‘All I hear in conversation is that Tottenham want to keep Grace’ – Marc Skinner on Clinton future

(Alexander Canillas/SPP)

Grace Clinton is set to have a big role at Manchester United next season, Reds manager Marc Skinner has indicated.

The 21-year-old has starred on loan at Tottenham Hotspur this season, leading to the attacking-midfield prospect playing and scoring for England before she has even made a competitive debut for her parent club. The ex-Everton youngster signed for United two summers ago, spending the second half of last season on loan at Bristol City, where her standout form helped the Robins win promotion to the Barclays WSL.

She would have to watch on in last Sunday’s FA Cup final between United and Spurs, having been ineligible to face her full-time employers. In his final pre-match press conference of the season, ahead of Saturday’s game with title-chasing Chelsea at Old Trafford, Skinner was asked by She Kicks how much his plans for next season have been based around Clinton.

With reports of Spurs intending to pursue a full transfer this summer for a player contracted until 2025, he offered his response.

“All I hear in conversation is that Tottenham want to keep Grace – of course they would want to keep Grace, she’s a fantastic player. I got to catch a moment with Grace after the final.

“It’s obviously a rubbish situation that she had to miss a final but I’ve challenged her to get us back there in the future. I think we don’t get the credit that we identified her qualities from Everton.

“We brought her to Manchester United, we gave her six months, we sent her out on loan at Bristol (City), she got experience, she then went on loan at Tottenham to get more experience; I don’t think people recognise that there’s a plan for each individual that we bring into the club. With Grace, it’s absolutely worked, and for me, I want to bring her back to the club and I want her to be part of what we’re doing, because I think she has a huge say in how we’ll play in the future.”

Making her senior Lionesses debut in February, Clinton was among the scorers in a 7-2 victory over Austria and has since appeared twice more for Sarina Wiegman’s team.

“The way she can play, she has the ability to find spaces, face forwards, be aggressive with the ball,” Skinner continued. “There are always things that she’ll want to improve, which is my job to continue to help her, but she can play off the side, she can play in the central positions, she can play a bit deeper and find raking passes.”

“She has lots and lots of qualities, and I’m looking forward to utilising her skills in our team going forwards.”

Skinner’s own contract has been the subject of discussion in recent months, with his deal due to expire in the coming weeks, though there has been increasing indication that the former Birmingham City coach will be extending his stay. Having led United to a historic first FA Cup success, the 5th-place Reds head into their last WSL game of 2023-24 hoping that a win over Chelsea in Emma Hayes’ farewell game may see them overtake Liverpool in 4th.

With his third season in charge drawing to a close, Skinner was also asked by She Kicks how much he feels he has implemented an underlying style of play that he is happy with to this point. He opted to address what he feels have been unsubstantiated claims at times.

“I don’t believe that we have enough conversations around football; I feel like being Manchester United manager, it’s all about the situation around football. I like to talk about football because that’s my job.

“I don’t think people are analysing the depth of the game enough in order to see how much detail we go into, how much our rotational system, the transition control that we have. There were moments in the first half (of the FA Cup final) that we’ve got Tottenham in a deep block because of our counter-marking positions, but people don’t talk about that.

“When we talk about style, how I’d love our fans to see us is that we can maintain possession but we can also exploit transition, we can adapt the style based upon what’s needed against the opponent. If, for example, we face a deep block, then we’re going to have to find a way to be progressive; that means that we go into maybe one or two at the back, and then we go into high, wide shapes.

“Have we had to adapt this year based on not having left-footed players (available)? Yes, we’ve had to.

“I started the season with a left-footed left-back (Gabby George) and we’ve had to adapt that. I read a recent report about ‘Manchester United have only used a certain amount of systems this year,’ and that statistically, we’re down from last year.

“And then they put the statistics up and we were up in every one of those statistics – the analysis sometimes is lazy, and I feel that it needs a little bit more in depth and research. You need to watch games before you have a comment on them; you don’t just need to watch highlights, you need to watch games.

“We’ve lost out in big moments; I think that’s something that we will look at for next season. I feel that we have got a nice, progressive style.

“I feel that we’ll adapt, I feel that we’ll evolve, but I feel that we’ll have a style that our fans can get right behind for many years to come.”


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