NB Slots Sports >Football World >Manchester United: Why Marc Skinner needs FA Cup trophy just as much as under-fire Erik ten Hag

Manchester United: Why Marc Skinner needs FA Cup trophy just as much as under-fire Erik ten Hag


Manchester United are a club in need of an uplift. There is an eerie similarity to the current plight of both first-team managers at Old Trafford, and neither is offering outpourings of optimism.

The initial phase of both regimes, those of women's boss Marc Skinner and his men's counterpart Erik ten Hag, set a hopeful scene, but this season has been met with heightened expectation and harsher responses.

Both Skinner and Ten Hag wanted a revolution. They profess similar philosophies, a brand of fast-flowing transition football, which threatens to work when the right personnel are available and falls horribly flat when they're not. Results have thrilled, then trailed off. Performances consistently inconsistent.

Positions in respective leagues have faltered too, while rhetoric about "trusting the process" and "following the script" have been repeated more times than most fans care for. Trajectories are not entirely like-for-like but you can see why those entrusted to lead are suffering the pressures of the famous Manchester United badge, and facing heat from multiple directions.

Image: Marc Skinner has been increasingly under pressure this season - with fans voicing their dissatisfaction
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On both fronts things have stalled, despite the renewed lease of life supposedly brought about by Sir Jim Ratcliffe's takeover and his new vision for football operations. Presumably, the future of both head coach positions beyond this term is the talk of Carrington's corridors. There must be whispers, at least.

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Ten Hag's men are on course to record United's worst season in the Premier League era, and are now in danger of surrendering any hope of European football to Chelsea, who have miraculously clawed themselves level on points with three games to go.

Man United's dramatic drop off

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Crystal Palace vs Manchester United

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace's win against Manchester United in the Premier League.

The women's side, meanwhile, are fifth in the WSL (having finished runners-up to Chelsea last season), three points and one place behind Liverpool, who were in the league below as recently as 2022. Their hopes of a second shot at the Champions League - having exited the competition in the qualifying rounds this year - were blown weeks ago.

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And then, just as the lines of comparison appear to be meeting equally sticky ends, an opportunity presents itself - the saving grace of two FA Cup finals in May.

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Liverpool 1-0 Man Utd

Highlights of the Women's Super League match between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Both Ten Hag and Skinner, somewhat against the odds, have led their respective teams to Wembley - Man Utd Women face Tottenham on Sunday, while the men take on Manchester City on May 25. Maybe the path to redemption is the same for both, too.

Confidence of success may not be high for Ten Hag's troops up against the holders, but probability stacks differently for Skinner. They are heavy favourites. This is the second year running Man Utd Women have reached the competition's showpiece, and they face a Spurs side navigating their first major final.

Both bosses will know that the FA Cup final is a - perhaps the - moment of reckoning. Neither can afford to rest on the assumption that the club's INEOS part-takeover, with Ratcliffe fronting the direction of the football department, will be any more forgiving than the Glazer-led operation that went before it.

Avram Glazer and Sir Jim Ratcliffe pictured during the FA Cup semi final at Wembley Stadium
Image: Avram Glazer and Sir Jim Ratcliffe watched on as Man United scraped past Championship side Coventry in the FA Cup semis

The marked drop-off across the board will continue to be a concern. Ten Hag's side have lost 38 per cent of league games this campaign - Skinner's side 29 per cent. A lack of coherent shape and system is something that has plagued both teams and exposed similar weaknesses.

Going by average (55 goals conceded in 35 games), United's men are on course to deliver their worst defensive performance of any in the Premier League era. And problems are mirrored. Man United Women have, so far, shipped 26 goals - in the entirety of last season they only conceded 12. In fact, back then, they boasted the best defensive record in the division.

Skinner was forced to defend his job back in January, while Ten Hag is drawing comparisons with the ill-fated appointment of David Moyes, who was sacked after only 10 months in 2014.

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Seeds of doubt have been sown, some are even beginning to sprout and will only grow with every poor result.

But there is legitimacy in the argument that the FA Cup offers a lifeline. The purpose here is not to speculate over whether the two Man United heads are capable of staying in their jobs (Skinner is out of contract this summer and yet to sign a new one), but rather to highlight why the ray of light at the end of an enduring tunnel is so important.

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The FA Cup has long been a staple of English football's wonderful heritage. Its winners are celebrated and heralded, and momentum springs from silverware. It can be a catalyst if used correctly. Need we refer back to the competition that turned the tide for Sir Alex Ferguson all those years ago, his first major trophy in charge at Old Trafford? The FA Cup in 1990.

Of course the landscape has moved on since then, irreversibly so, but titles and trophies still carry significant weight and can be persuasive bargaining tools.

This has largely been a season to forget for the entire Manchester United contingent - more problems posed than questions answered. Reports of rifts. Change and overhaul as INEOS representatives stamp their mark.

But the narrative still has some, albeit dwindling, mileage, and it's up to both Ten Hag and Skinner to ensure this is a chapter that can be characterised by some of the cheerier, more hopeful projections that both tenures seemingly began with.

Follow updates from Wembley Stadium in Mno Sports' live blog as Man United take on Spurs in the Women's FA Cup final on Sunday; kick-off 2.30pm.

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