Manchester United manager, Marc Skinner has entered 2024 under increasing pressure and yesterday’s defeat to champions Chelsea has done nothing but compound the boss’ misery.
However, despite the fanbase being split in half when it comes to Skinner’s tenure, the vast majority are feeling hopeful for the future of Manchester United Women given the recent takeover of football operations by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company.
United have never beaten Chelsea but with injuries to key players like Sam Kerr and Millie Bright, fans headed to Stamford Bridge thinking that they could close the gap on the league leaders.
But that was not to be and, as The Athletic reports, a small section of the 20,000 fans began chanting “We want Skinner out” as the game entered injury time with United 3-1 down.
The visitors looked sluggish for the first 35 minutes as they fell 2-0 down.
They clawed one back before half-time and took the game to the reigning Champions of the WSL in the second half but former United star Lauren James countered and claimed her hat-trick late on.
The main comments from the fans calling for Skinner to go derive from his predictability and lack of rotation. In fairness to him, his squad has been hit by a number of long-term injuries this season.
However, the more worrying aspect are the comments from former players and their agents, as The Athletic notes.
Michael Kallback, the agent of former United players Martha Thomas and Vilde Boe Risa, in response to Boe Risa winning player of the month at Atletico Madrid in December, tweeted: “That’s what happens in a non-toxic environment”.
Martha Thomas claimed she wasn’t enjoying her football at United, whilst Ivana Fuso, who left for Birmingham City, told She Kicks: “It felt like what I was doing was never enough.”
However, videos circling on social media show some of Skinner’s current squad jumping to his defence after the defeat to Chelsea.
she is part of problem too pic.twitter.com/w7Jm3Xvls2
— MbakNin – 🐯🏆x6 (@theMiniNino) January 22, 2024
Rachel Williams can be seen angrily telling a fan to put their ‘Skinner Out’ placard down as the team came over to applaud the travelling support.
Other fans have defended Marc Skinner and blamed the hierarchy above and the lack of investment for the team’s poor run of form.
According to Deloitte’s Football Money League report, United made the most money of any English women’s team during 2021/22 despite not qualifying for the Champions League.
Last season, they qualified for the Champions League but were unable to negotiate better deals and hold onto two of their best players, Alessia Russo and Ona Batlle, the latter of which they have struggled to find a suitable replacement for.
The Athletic note that on the contrary, “they completed most of their business late in the summer transfer window, forcing them into reactive and short-term moves.
“United have not prioritised a clear, long-term footballing strategy.” United have a head of player recruitment but no scouts. They are currently hiring a head of football negotiations for the women’s and academy teams.
United have just this season opened a purpose-built training centre for the women’s team, which shows the club are willing to invest in what the team needs.
With the arrival of INEOS, the future for United women looks bright after they named the women’s team in its legal filings. Sir Jim Ratcliffe has already met with Marc Skinner, the team and the Supporters Club and is said to be as committed to the women’s team as he is the men’s.
Sir Dave Brailsford, who will take charge of elite football performance, has also met with Marc Skinner on a number of occasions. He will conduct an audit of the women’s team structure and personnel but it is thought Skinner will be safe until the end of the season at least.
With his contract ending at the end of the season though, it remains to be seen what his long-term future looks like.
It may depend on how the rest of the season goes. Their Conti-cup campaign and FA Cup campaign may be crucial if Skinner wants to see out another season at United but Brailsford’s priority will be to “stabilise” the men’s team.