Manchester United have often been the team chasing those at the top of the Women’s Super League, but manager Marc Skinner does not believe they are feeling the pressure with it being the other way around this season.
United have finished fourth in the WSL for the past three campaigns but were top of the table at the start of 2023.
However, a disappointing goalless draw against Everton at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday meant United were overtaken by defending champions Chelsea.
It had been a dominant performance from United, who had 25 shots – though just four on target, but they could not make their pressure count on a frustrating afternoon.
It opened the door for Chelsea to move two points ahead of them following their 3-2 victory over Tottenham later on Sunday.
Asked if United were starting to feel the pressure of being chased by their rivals, Skinner said: “I don’t feel that. We were after it and were hungry.
“Life is too short to feel that. You want to be a part of that pressure because it’s important, but what is pressure? You already put pressure on yourself if you train at the highest intensity every day anyway.
“If you want to be title contenders you have to feel pressure. It’s part of our learnings.”
England international Ella Toone came closest to giving United the lead against Everton when she hit the post in the second half, after Lucia Garcia shot inches over the bar earlier.
United had 78% possession in the opening 15 minutes of the second half and 70% in the last 15 minutes of the first half.
Almost 45% of action was in Everton’s third during these periods, while United had attempted 17 crosses before an hour was played.
“Everton’s forwards came off the field saying they chased for 90 minutes and didn’t touch the ball,” added Skinner.
“All we can deliver is that and the quality comes in the moments. The players know what chances they missed and they will own them.”
‘I didn’t feel it affected Russo’
One player heavily involved against Everton was England striker Alessia Russo, who had dominated headlines this week after being the subject of two world-record bids from Arsenal in the final 24 hours of the January transfer window.
Russo attempted seven shots in the game – the most for a United player in the WSL this season.
Skinner spoke to Russo earlier this week and, after the Everton game, said she had not been affected by transfer speculation.
“Alessia did well, led the line well and held the ball up well. She could have been cleaner and finish [chances] but she’s in those positions which shows the quality she has,” said Skinner.
“She is in a good mood, good spirit. She’s ready, she knows exactly what we want to achieve here and she’s a huge part of that.
“She never changes. If she’s feeling pressure, I’ll take it off her because that’s my job but she doesn’t, she wants to be the very best. Sometimes a little bit of pressure is OK.
“I didn’t feel that affected her at all, it just didn’t fall for us.”