Manchester United left it late to seal a 1-0 victory over Reading at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After struggling to overcome a stubborn Reading defence, The Red Devils managed to find the winning goal through Rachel Williams in the dying moments of the match. The three points catapulted the club to the top of the Barclays Women’s Super League table.
The difficult test that Reading offered came as no surprise to Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner, he knew that his side would have to be up for the fight. Skinner also highlighted the importance of game-changer Williams.
“Every game I’ve had against Reading, whether it’s with Birmingham City or Manchester United, they always make it difficult,” Skinner said when speaking after the final whistle. “What Reading do, which I think they do as good as, if not better than anybody, is they rough you up. If you’re not up for the fight and you’re not up for that physical challenge, they can win momentum and they turn it in their favour.
“I knew it was going to be difficult but the whole reason we signed players like Rachel (Williams) was to give us moments when we needed them. We have a young team that are vibrant but are going to need experienced heads around to guide them.”
There were many eyebrows raised when Manchester United confirmed the signing of veteran forward Williams in the summer, she was not seen as a big name to help push the club on for European qualification, however, Skinner will feel that it was excellent business with the player proving her worth from the bench.
He said “I think Rachel might feel vindicated because there were sections that didn’t understand why she should be brought in. Well, proof in action; we don’t do talking, we don’t talk, we don’t answer, we answer on the field.
“That for me is a beautiful goal. She watches, she waits and then she finds the gap, that’s a beautiful goal. To be that calm when everyone else wasn’t, that’s somebody who has the experience and the quality and shows her influence.”
In previous seasons, this would have been the kind of game where Skinner’s side would have dropped points in the race for the top three. Yet, this Manchester United side seems like an entirely different animal, a team that are capable of securing big victories but also scrapping for points when they aren’t at their free-flowing best.
“We found a way today and that’s what’s important,” stated Skinner. “It’s a huge marker of the growth of the team.”
Although, that Williams goal was enough for The Red Devils to replace champions Chelsea at the top of the Barclays Women’s Super League table, the initial target continues to be securing UEFA Women’s Champions League football for next season. Manchester United have been able to open up a five-point gap on fourth-placed Manchester City this weekend and they now hold a very strong position in the race for European qualification.