The standard of options in Manchester United Women’s squad makes it impossible to keep every player happy, believes manager Marc Skinner.
The Reds boss was speaking in his press conference ahead of this Sunday’s televised (Sky Sports) game with Tottenham Hotspur in the WSL (6.45pm kick-off).
Squad additions following their Champions League qualification last season have included Japan’s World Cup Golden Boot winner Hinata Miyazawa, Barcelona and Brazil attacker Geyse, and France forward Melvine Malard on a season-long loan from Lyon.
Asked by She Kicks what he may have learned over time about managing a squad with numerous high-calibre options, and how possible it is in reality to keep them all happy over the course of a season, Skinner explained:
“The reality is that I don’t think I can keep them happy, and almost my job isn’t to keep them happy, it’s to make sure I try and pick the right team, but also with that is try and be honest with them. The hardest part of my job each week is to pick the team, because you’re always going to leave somebody that has lots and lots of quality out the team.
“It’s helped a little bit, albeit in a negative way, with the injuries we’ve picked up, especially the ones we’ve picked up on international camp over the season; I would have loved to have birthed Emma Watson (ACL) this year properly, and obviously with Gabby (George, also ACL) going out as well. We’ve had to adapt slightly, but in the frontline, we’ve hopefully maintained health as much as we possibly can.
“That’s difficult, but what we have to do, each (opposing) team gives us a different problem, and so I’ve got to pick the right players who are going to unlock those problems, and if they don’t, the rest must stand on their toes and be ready. I think what’s important, though, is although we’ve not been in Champions League, I think our performances in the Conti Cup have also been really impressive, where I didn’t think we had that last year.
“I’m impressed and pleased with all of the players in what they’ve done.”
His team face former Reds player Martha Thomas on Sunday, with the Spurs striker currently the league’s joint-leading scorer with six goals. Recent England call-up Grace Clinton, on loan to Spurs from United, is not eligible to face her parent club.
Skinner confirmed that Hinata Miyazawa will ‘definitely be out until after Christmas,’ having picked up an injury while away with Japan. Spain’s Irene Guerrero is also set to miss the remaining games of 2023, as she continues her recovery from a knee problem.
Another of their international contingent, Jayde Riviere, meanwhile, has been making a strong impression of late. Although she has already played in two World Cups and helped Canada to win Olympic gold (2021), this is the 22-year-old’s first full season of professional club football.
Skinner was asked about the popular full-back’s progress, and the club’s plan for her since joining United in the second half of last season.
“It’s adaptation to the league. We always knew that she had the quality.
“If I could design how I’d want a footballer to move, it would be Jayde Riviere’s profile; she’s very, very similar in that guise to (Barcelona’s former Man United defender) Ona Batlle, because acceleration is quick, her agility’s excellent, her speed is excellent. What it’s taken Jayde is just a bit of time.
“She has a really good attitude to learning, she’s a really mature girl for her age, but you almost get these college players and you think that they’re inexperienced in football, but they’re actually 22 usually when you get them over. What we recognised in Jayde was just this ability to be a top player, and I think that she’s going to be a top, top player for Manchester United, and obviously Canada.
“I think the real, key secret is probably time and experience, and she’s gained that a little bit more; game time has been important for her. I think you’re seeing the growth of her and I think you’ll continue to see that this season.”
United will begin this weekend in 4th place in the WSL, seven points behind leaders Chelsea after eight games, with opponents Spurs three points behind them in 6th.