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Marc Skinner pleased with Man Utd ‘intensity’ after Christmas break

Manchester United manager Marc Skinner is pleased with the attitude and energy his team have brought to their warm weather training camp, with the return of the WSL still nine days away.

With nearly a month between competitive games because of the winter break, United are spending the week in Malta to train and get back into the swing of things following time off at Christmas.

Although he intended to have only ‘two or three’ days off for Christmas himself in order to plan for the January transfer window, Skinner granted his players a slightly longer break to completely unwind and recharge. He vowed not to contact anyone during that period, with the squad handed individual programmes to stay on top of their fitness before reporting back for duty.

United subsequently travelled to Malta for a week-long stay on Tuesday night and on Friday faced local champions Birkirkara in a mid-season friendly.

The game saw starts for teenage summer signing Grace Clinton, who has been held back so far this season, and home-grown talent Jess Simpson. There was also a first senior appearance for Aoife Mannion just under 11 months after she suffered an ACL injury in February.

Although Skinner was flattering about Birkirkara prior to the game, it was always likely to be a one-sided affair and United raced into a 6-0 lead in the opening 45 minutes. Alessia Russo and Vilde Boe Risa each scored twice, with Clinton and Lucia Garcia also finding the net.

Skinner made 10 changes at half-time, with only Ona Batlle staying on the pitch. Jade Moore, Nikita Parris, Rachel Williams and Martha Thomas all added to the score-line to make it 10-0 in the end.

Speaking beforehand, Skinner had expressed his happiness at how things have quickly come back together for the squad ahead of what will be a crucial second half of the season.

“They’ve had a little break which refreshes them and now they’re back together. The way we’ve been treated [in Malta] is wonderful, so it’s a real good moment to get them all back on the same page and I can feel it with the players – it’s a real good vibe,” he told club media.

“We’ve got a really big second part of the season coming up, but we planned this to a really focused camp for us – just reconnecting – and already I’ve seen the intensity is back.

“We want to put all our focus on things we could have done better in the first part of the season, but celebrating things we did excellently, keep them up and even improve them even more. I think we’ll refocus and I want to see a non-stop momentum from our team [in the second half of the season]. It’s a propellor for us to go forward into the New Year.”

United are also facing a potentially busy few weeks off the pitch. In addition to being keen on recruiting – the pursuit of full-backs is a major objective – a handful of squad players have been the subject of offers from other WSL clubs.

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