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Talking Tactics: How Skinner can reboot Man Utd's title ambitions
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Callum Rice-Coates
LiveScore
Marc Skinner has come under criticism from some sections of Manchester United's support
Marc Skinner has come under criticism from some sections of Manchester United's support

Manchester United are falling behind in the Women's Super League title race.

Last Sunday's 3-1 loss to current leaders and champions Chelsea left the Red Devils 10 points off top spot prior to this weekend's fixtures.

And with Arsenal and Manchester City also pulling away, manager Marc Skinner has a challenge on his hands to turn things around.

We assess the problems that United will be aiming to address ahead of today's clash with Aston Villa.

Below par

United have shown signs of progress at times this season — but in big games they have fallen short.

That was the case again on Matchday 11 as Lauren James' hat-trick condemned them to a second successive WSL defeat.

They were also beaten at home by Liverpool before Christmas and lost 3-1 to rivals Manchester City in November — before another defeat to Gareth Taylor's side in the Conti Cup on Wednesday night.

Those league defeats have proved costly with the top three of Chelsea, City and Arsenal gaining a significant advantage.

After the latest defeat to City, Skinner said: "We're not performing badly. Let me be very clear about that.

"Before you look at results, go back and watch every single 90 minutes and see that Manchester United were probably the best team statistically and in performance. 

"That is where you get skewed. Do you want fast food information? Or do we now have to dig a little bit deeper into seeing performance?

"And that's what I do every day. I'm happy with the team's performance, I'm happy with our energy and I'm happy with what we're trying to do."

Off the ball

Marc Skinner has been Manchester United manager since July 2021
Marc Skinner has been Manchester United manager since July 2021

Skinner has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks with some fans calling for a change of manager.

United finished second last season — just two points behind winners Chelsea — but appear to have regressed in 2023-24.

The stats suggest Skinner's side are still largely dominant in most games — they have overperformed their xG of 20.3 with 26 goals scored and conceded 14 times despite an xGA of 11.5.

Manchester United could not contend with Lauren James in their 3-1 loss to Chelsea
Manchester United could not contend with Lauren James in their 3-1 loss to Chelsea

Before this gameweek, only Chelsea (61.3%) and Manchester City (58.5%) had averaged more possession than United (58.2%).

But there is a naivety about the Red Devils when out of possession against high-quality opposition.

Their eagerness to control games has occasionally led to a lack of discipline with eight goals conceded in three matches against the current top three.

Establishing a more resolute structure without the ball will be key for United as they look to compete at the top.

Big-name players

Manchester United have now won just two of their last five Women's Super League matches
Manchester United have now won just two of their last five Women's Super League matches

United must also find a way to come out on top in games that are decided by fine margins.

There is no shortage of quality in their squad — but moments of individual brilliance from star players have been few and far between.

Ella Toone, capable of impacting big games, has scored three goals and provided three assists in 11 league appearances.

Nikita Parris, meanwhile, has four goals across 10 WSL fixtures, level with Melvine Malard.

Malard is the only one of United's regular goalscorers to find the net against the top three this season, though.

Finding a way to get the best out of their key players will be essential to an improvement in results.

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