Mark Skinner hailed Manchester United’s first away win against Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City as “massive” as his side recovered from relegation in the second half to finish their opponents’ perfect start to the season and level with them at the top of the table. Thanks to a thrilling 3-2 win.
“It’s huge, there’s no doubt about it,” said the delighted Skinner. “It’s three points, let’s be very clear, We lost three against Chelsea. I don’t blow it. But tonight we decided we didn’t want to leave this match without showing courage and character. When I look at the Manchester United team, famous on the men’s side, it’s about the attitude of not giving up, we’ll keep working until the final whistle. Tonight we got the whole of Manchester United [spirit]. Our mission is to bring women under the same banner: We may go down, but we are never defeated.”
In front of the second largest WSL crowd of 40,064, after the 47,367 who attended Arsenal’s defeat of Tottenham at the Emirates, United took the lead through Ella Ton late in the first half before Arsenal fired home in the second half. Frieda Mannum directed Arsenal level before Laura Weinreuther gave them the lead.
But United turned the scenario around, with Katie Zelm delivering twice from set-pieces, first for Millie Turner, then Alessia Russo to send the massive side away.
The international break took its toll on an increasingly emaciated Arsenal, but Lotte Woopen-Moye was fit enough, after a light strain from a quadruple, to return to partner Steve Catley in defence, with Lea Williamson and Raphael both suffering from foot injuries. Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead, Manuela Zinsberger and Finnreuther all also started despite picking up injuries at various points during the break. For United, Una Batley has returned to the right-back position after not playing since mid-October.
At half time you could have been forgiven for thinking the visiting team in green was the unbeaten team in the league. United were brilliant and rampant, gifting Arsenal possession in the middle more often than not, with the trio of Nobbs, Manum and Lea struggling in the absence of the injured Kim Little.
But United didn’t capitalize on their display until six minutes before half-time, when an unmarked Toone, who had crept in behind Wubben-Moy, stood up to the back corner.
United’s extravagance was promptly punished in the second half, with Manum volleying the ball from Nikita Paris just inside the halfway circle before sliding towards the edge of the area and sending a shot that would loop around and into centre-back Maya Le Tissier. He came out of the dressing room fighting, played with imperfect strength in the first half and shook United.
An hour later, Vivianne Miedema replaced Nobbs, and hard work from the Dutchman contributed to Arsenal’s second goal. Having cut in on the left, she forced a back deflection to Caitlin Forward, who crossed the ball to Katie McCabe who volleyed the ball to the back post where Finreuther volleyed in for her first goal for Arsenal from close range.
The lead held until five minutes remaining, and after Turner’s equalizer, Russo scored the winning goal early in injury time.
Arsenal manager Jonas Edvall said: “I thought in the first half it was a lot about our positioning, we were too separate, not making short enough passes around the ball. In the second half it was our decision, we were better with our positioning, but we made some strange decisions with the ball.”
A happier Skinner said, “I invented dance moves when we recorded tonight. I spun, I spun—it wasn’t pretty. It made me, for a moment, lose where I fantasize, and that’s what football should be like.”
“It’s only three points. Please report this: It’s only three points. I’m really happy.”