Man Utd given stark WSL reminder in Everton stalemate

Jamie Spencer
Marc Skinner's side couldn't find a way through against Everton
Marc Skinner's side couldn't find a way through against Everton / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Manchester United were reintroduced to the harsh realities of failing to take chances in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Everton, a result which allowed Chelsea to knock them off the top of the WSL table.

United have enjoyed on an impressive run of form this season, kicking on massively from the disappointment of another fourth place finish in 2021/22 to put themselves firmly in the mix for a first ever Champions League spot and maybe more come the end of the campaign.

Marc Skinner’s debut season in charge came under challenging circumstances following his appointment relatively late in the summer of 2021 and directly impacting his time to prepare or implement his ideas on the already promising squad he inherited.

But improvement was clear to see as the season progressed and United have stepped things up a level in 2022/23. Where they struggled to put games away last season, Skinner’s team started by blowing away Reading inside 35 minutes of their opening fixture. Liverpool got similar treatment last month, while Aston Villa and Brighton have also been on the receiving end of rampant displays.

United have also beaten Arsenal away from home in a WSL game for the first time, come away from a Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium disappointed to only get a point, and secured wins on the road against Everton and West Ham – games which ended in costly draws last season.

United have even managed to grind out results in games where they haven’t performed, such as narrow away wins at Leicester and Reading – the type of gritty matches they didn't win before.

Everything has been heading in the right direction, which made such a sudden setback disappointing.

Everton defended well at Leigh Sports Village to become the first side to keep a clean sheet against United in any competition this season. But the hosts still created plenty of chances and responsibility for the result ultimately lay with missing too many of them. It was an uncomfortable but perhaps necessary reminder of certain games that United couldn’t put to bed last season – the aforementioned draws with Everton and West Ham, plus those against Tottenham and Aston Villa.

Speaking afterwards, Skinner said he considered it two points dropped rather than one gained and stressed that he doesn’t want to be fighting for only draws at all for the rest of the season.

“We’ve created enough chances to win the game,” the United boss reflected. “It’s the quality of the ones missed that should be on target. That’s the accountability. There’s an easy choice – we look at them, work on them and we come back and have the right finish in mind.

“You only get a second in reality, so we have to be ready to take them. Our players want to hold accountability because we want to be the best team in the country.”

Skinner denied that any pressure from being chased, having risen to the top of the WSL standings last month, was a factor in not winning the game against an Everton team that United had already beaten 3-0 and 4-2 across two competitions so far this season.

“I don’t feel [the pressure of being chased]. Today, we were after it…we were hungry,” he said.

“Their forwards have just said they’ve chased for 90 minutes without touching the ball. All we can ever deliver is that and then the quality comes in the moments and we get the players to finish the moments. Life is too short [to worry about pressure].”

Although he insists that he and his team are not feeling it, or at least not in a way that they are burdened by it, Skinner also welcomed pressure because of what it specifically represents.

“If you train every day at the right intensity, you’ve already put pressure on yourself anyway," he added. "If you want to be title contenders, you’ve got to feel pressure, it’s part of our learnings."

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