Manchester United shocked everyone when they came from behind last November to beat Arsenal 3-2 away from home.
It was a turning point for the club. In the 74th despite taking an early lead thanks to Ella Toone, United found themselves 2-1 down to title contenders Arsenal.
Marc Skinner said at the time, “We were facing defeat again, we had a choice to make.
“We could either keep trying to push and push to get back into the game and try and win it or we can accept defeat and feel sorry for ourselves. I think that’s where we’ve grown a lot.”
Turner scored in the 85th minute and Russo in the 91st, the comeback was complete and, as Molly Hudson writes for The Times, it was the moment United turned from top three hopefuls to title contenders.
Historically, despite the club’s accolades on the men’s side, United women have not been a threat to the top brass.
Since their formation in 2018, they have won the Championship and promotion to the WSL in their first season and finished fourth every season since. Just short of the Champions League places.
Hudson says this has given Skinner’s side the resilience which has allowed them to maintain their early challenge for the title this season.
Their success is partly thanks to the Lionesses heroes who play for them.
Mary Earps has kept nine clean sheets in their 14 games, the most of any goalkeeper in the division.
Her time has been managed by United after last summer’s events to ensure she has not suffered mental or physical fatigue.
“With Mary, we’ve tried to manage her moments, where we can give her some time off in little moments just to refresh her.” Skinner said. “Because the pressure of a goalkeeping situation is sometimes immense so the mental pressure, the focus that you have to have, that can be fatiguing mentally rather than physically. But she has been exceptional this year in what she gives to us.”
At the other end of the pitch, Alessia Russo has scored eight goals in 12 matches for the Reds.
The rejection of Arsenal’s world record bid for her in January showed that United had changed their attitude in recent times and recognised the value of the player to the club.
Outside of the Lionesses set-up, Leah Galton has also been instrumental in the Reds success having scored six and assisting three goals. United are averaging 2.7 goals per game.
“We have the ability to score in many different ways, but that was in the design because when I looked at how we played last year, you could probably box us into a two-dimensional side,” Skinner said.
United will face their toughest test yet in their title charge as they take on Chelsea later today in a clash of the top two.
“We have to show our rebellious nature and make sure that we maximise our opportunities in this game.”
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