Manchester United manager Marc Skinner is open to his women’s team training with teenage boys in the club’s academy, although there are no immediate plans to introduce it right now.
Having senior female players train with boys aged around 15 or 16 has become an increasingly common in the women’s game in recent years as a way of improving speed and physicality.
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall has previously spoken very openly about the benefits, suggesting that 16-year-old boys provide enough of a physical challenge without being ‘impossible to play against’.
Eidevall has even called it an ‘astonishing opportunity’ to make training tougher than anything they might face in actual matches, even at the very highest level in the Champions League.
As well as Arsenal, it is something that has been used within the United States national team setup and by Emma Hayes’ Chelsea. Skinner himself has utilised it at former clubs Birmingham and Orlando in the past and hasn’t ruled out considering it at Manchester United as well.
“We used to do it at Birmingham. We’ve done it in Orlando,” Skinner said of his past experience.
“I think at the minute, we have a competitive squad that can manage right now against each other. But we haven’t ruled it out,” he added.
“Nick [Cox], our academy leader, is magnificent, forward thinking. We could do that, it’s just when and if we need it and at what time. Our boys have a lot of busy schedules as well, so if we can fit it in and need to use it as a tool, we can absolutely utilise that.”
United have now been running a senior women’s team since 2018 when a squad was reformed 13 years after being dissolved. The club has had the aim of competing at the top of the WSL and in Europe since day one and is determined to qualify for the Champions League to take that next step.
The women’s team was spoken about optimistically by United’s most senior officials in the latest quarterly investor conference call this week and Skinner feels as supported by the club in pursuit of key targets and ambitions as ever.
“We will always be supported here as a women’s team. I thoroughly believe that,” he said ahead of United’s next WSL fixture against West Ham.
“We’ve got a meeting with the leadership group, John Murtough (football director) and so on later today, to discuss and have an open dialogue about things that affect us [as a women’s team] the whole club. John and Andy O’Boyle (deputy football director) were over watching the training session today. Steve McClaren (men’s assistant manager) was over the other day watching.
“We have that constant interaction and I have constant meetings with Andy and John, so I feel the support is absolute. It can only help us go from strength to strength, I’ve no doubt about that.”
Asked about collaboration across the club and whether he has had opportunity to establish a relationship with new men’s team boss Erik ten Hag, Skinner stressed that he is ‘welcome any time’ but is leaving the Dutchman to settled in his role for the time being.
“I know what it’s like to come into a club of Manchester United’s size and his is just magnified a little bit more,” Skinner said of Ten Hag. “He needs time to get his job right. We have interacted, of course we have…we can go over [to interact with the men’s setup] at any point.
“I know how hard it is for him to just focus on his job and all the things he has to manage, so giving him the time to do that is paramount. I’m welcome whenever, I know that. Just my personal preference at the minute is to allow him to do his job.”