Marc Skinner has called on Man Utd to take the emotion out of their first Women’s FA Cup final, while Emma Hayes says that while experience is not an advantage, her Chelsea side are feeling the best they have all season.
Sunday’s showdown will be played in front of a 90,000 sell-out, setting a new attendance record for a women’s domestic club match.But United boss Skinner has promised to treat the occasion as a “business-like event”, saying he has learned lessons from Manchester City beating his Birmingham team 4-1 in the 2017 FA Cup final at Wembley.
Skinner said: “What we got wrong at Birmingham is that we made it a massive event. We made it bigger than it should have been.
“Everyone knows it’s a big deal, but we put quotes on the wall from players and families. We made mistakes, and that was naivety.
“It became an emotional event rather than a clear business-like event.
“You can celebrate after if you win the cup and be as emotional as you want, but the reality is there’s going to be enough emotions in the game that we need to save them up.
“I’ve learned from that and we have to manage stages of the game better than we did at Birmingham. These are the factors we are looking to develop for this one.”
Skinner is adamant there is no extra pressure on Sunday, even though the game is being played to a sold-out crowd and shown on national television.
“It’s not pressure I don’t have every day,” said Skinner. “I even think there’s more pressure on us than Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City because we are Manchester United.
“I feel that because every Manchester United fan will want us to win and we are huge around the world. I’m sure there will be some nerves, but I’m fuelling my focus and attention to maximise this because, if we win, it will be massive.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Hayes believes that her team’s past appearances in the FA Cup final will not be an advantage, but offered a warning that her side feel like they are in their best spell of the season.
“Previous success is not indicative of future success.,” she said.
“We’re playing an outstanding team who have led the way in the league this year and are deserving of being in the cup final.
“Being there in the past maybe gives you the luxury of understanding what it’s like, but it gives us no advantage whatsoever.
“But when you go into such a big game against a top team, we want to go in feeling the best you possibly can. We are feeling the best we have felt all season.
“This year, I think it’s fair to say our team have been written off quite easily. We’re always favourites in our eyes… what’s important is the belief, confidence and trust that’s internal is critical when it really matters. All I can say we’re really looking forward to it.”
A sold-out Wembley is indicative of how much the women’s game has grown in the last few years, and a moment Hayes has been advocating for.
“We’ve reached that point where selling out Wembley is no longer just a pipe dream,” she added.
“The FA don’t have to listen to me anymore banging on about how important it is that we fill the stadium out so well done to everyone for doing that.”
Skinner & Hayes not thinking of WSL title race
Sunday’s final will be a reflection of the Women’s Super League table, where Manchester United and Chelsea occupy the top two spots. Skinner’s team are currently top with a one-point lead, although the Blues do have a game in hand.
However, Skinner insists the Wembley clash will have no bearing on the title race, adding: “I’m not thinking about that at all. I am solely focused on a one-off game.
“For the first time I’ve allowed our players to separate the games and we are looking at this before two difficult games in the league (against Manchester City and Liverpool).
“This has no effect on our league and we are going to treat it as such, play it as the one-off event that it is.”
Not unsurprisingly, Hayes also follows a similar mindset, adding: “I don’t think about the implications of an outcome because I have get through today [Friday].
“Today, I have to go through the analysis and clean up the training clips, preparation for tomorrow.
“Tomorrow [Saturday] has to be the best session of the week so that we’re in the right place. Everyone has to get the right amount of sleep and be as fresh as possible so by the time we go out on Sunday, we can put ourselves in the best possible position. And that’s all my focus is on, not beyond that.”
Kerr: I love the big games
Chelsea striker Sam Kerr says she loves the pressure of the big occasion and having the opportunity “to do something great” as she prepares for yet another FA Cup final.
Kerr has scored twice for the Blues in each of the last two competition finals, as they beat Arsenal 3-0 and then Manchester City 3-2 after extra-time, as well as netting in Chelsea’s two WSL wins over Man United this term.
Kerr, who goes into the game having been named as the FWA’s Women’s Footballer of the Year on Friday, said: “I play this game to score goals and I love the pressure, I love the big games, I love being able to have a moment in the palm of your hands and be able to do something great.
“So I get excited about these games. People are still talking about that last game of the season, and for me that was so exciting. I think it’s exciting when there’s another moment like that on the horizon.
“You can’t think about losing ever – that’s number one sin of a footballer.
“If you think about that, that’s going to happen. I only think about the good things. Once you start thinking negative thoughts, that’s the only way you’re going to go.
“I visualise scoring a goal, the celebration, seeing my family after the game, all the things that make me play football.”
Both holders Chelsea and first-time finalists Man Utd are aiming to secure the first leg of a domestic double as they face off in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
The Blues have won the competition four times in the last six years and have their eyes set on another victory at a sold-out Wembley.
Manchester United, however, are on the verge of a first major trophy since winning promotion to the WSL after the club reformed in 2018.
The teams occupy the top two spots in the Women’s Super League, so Sunday’s winner will fancy their chances of a double.