Marc Skinner believes the “special” WSL Manchester derby on Sunday will be decided by who can hold their nerve, live on Sky Sports.
Manchester City travel to Old Trafford looking to close the gap on the Women’s Super League top three having lost their last two matches.
United have yet to hit top gear either with their unbeaten record, which includes three draws from six games, leaving them seven points behind leaders Chelsea and ground to make up in the title race.
It adds to what will be a box-office clash and United boss Skinner expects a fiery encounter.
It’s a special event,” Skinner told Sky Sports News’ Anton Toloui. “It is going to have lots of good football I’m sure. It is going to be a spectacle but we know what to do. We have been here before, we have grown in these derbies.
“We need to go and put in a performance in front of our fans at Old Trafford because they deserve it, and our players want to do that. I’m really looking forward to it. I want to see a growth from the last time we played last year. That’s going to be important.
“I don’t think it will be a smash and grab – I don’t think we can in this game. We have to perform right and that is the mental message I have to send to our players. ‘If you perform right, you give yourself the best chance’.
“It does have ramifications for the whole season. There’s not going to be any massive differences for the teams. There will be periods of the game where Man City have momentum, there’s going to be a time when we have momentum. It’s the team in that moment that takes their chances or stops their opponent – both teams will create chances.
“Form is balanced coming into the game so I don’t think you can read anything into that. When it comes to derby day it will be all about the passion and the commitment. It will be about all of the underlying foundations of football. We all know tactical, technical, all the psychology part of it – that exists within the game. When it comes down to it, it will be who holds their nerve.”
Despite what is on the line, Skinner believes cool heads are needed in the heat of the derby.
“Walking away with three points will, believe it or not, probably be unbelievable in the moment, but it’s three points and that is how you have to play this game,” he said.
“You play with too much emotion and you tip yourself over the edge and all of a sudden you don’t perform the way that you want to.
“I want us to be aggressive, with the ball and off the ball. If we do that we will excite our fans because we have the ability to score goals whenever. I want a solid defensive performance. If we do all that I will be a happy man at the end of Sunday.”
Man Utd have failed to beat Brighton, Leicester and Arsenal in the WSL so far, but Skinner is happy with his team’s performances.
“I’m really pleased with how we are playing. If you look at the statistics, we are better off than we were last season and we finished second,” he said.
“We can only keep improving but I am going to challenge my players at both ends to be ruthless. To defend the box against real attacking threat on Sunday and punish the opponent in that final third and if we do that I think we will win the game.”
WSL fixtures in full
It’s Super Sunday with a WSL twist! Watch Brighton vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Football this Sunday; kick-off 2pm; followed by Manchester United vs Manchester City at Old Trafford; kick-off 4.30pm