Man United boss hopes it becomes impossible for fans not to flock to Women’s Super League clashes

    MARC SKINNER hopes WSL duels will ‘be sunshine in winter’ for fans tempted to swerve games in the season’s coldest periods.

    A record 6,500-plus crowd is set to watch the Manchester United gaffer’s stars take on Reading at Leigh Sports Village today.

    Marc Skinner's side are targeting a top-three finish this season

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    Marc Skinner’s side are targeting a top-three finish this seasonCredit: Getty
    Man United are due to play Reading in front of a record crowd of more than 6,500 at Leigh Sports Village

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    Man United are due to play Reading in front of a record crowd of more than 6,500 at Leigh Sports VillageCredit: PA

    And it will be the first league game for both sides following the Lionesses’ Euros triumph which was watched by a record 87,912 Wembley crowd.

    But some of the game’s followers and influential figures fear high attendances at women’s games could dip.

    They include Brighton chief Hope Powell, who spoke earlier this month of the challenge of sustaining high spectator numbers during the coldest times of the season.

    The former Lionesses manager, 52, remembers how crowds rose when England hosted the 2005 Women’s Euros, but then dwindled during the domestic season.

    Skinner, 39, admitted: “Weather can always have an impact.

    “But I think once everybody realises from what they’ve watched over the summer, how strong our league is becoming, once they feel fully part of it, I believe attending won’t be a choice.

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    “There’s a responsibility on the teams to produce and perform, to show high quality.

    “And on the league to continue to grow and allow us to invest in talent, so that we have the best within this country, but also for us not to make excuses.

    “What’s brilliant about our fans is that we will break our record this weekend.

    “We’ve sold over 6,500 tickets already, so for us, we’ll break our own record in terms of a game at Leigh.

    “I know we also have the responsibility to perform — our fans love what we do and keep coming back.

    “Of course, we want to be very successful, so that also helps.

    “With English winters, who knows how harsh it will be this year.

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    “But let’s almost try to be the sunshine in the winter, to make sure people turn up and watch what we’re doing.”

    United finished fourth last term, but go into the new season minus Jackie Groenen.

    The Dutch midfielder, who made 16 WSL appearances last term, left on Thursday to join French side Paris Saint-Germain on a three-year deal.

    The Netherlands international described it as a “big step” in her career.

    The switch for a player with 92 international caps has left some Red Devils fans dismayed.

    But Skinner insists his squad has the “numbers and qualities” to support their top three push.

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    The United gaffer said: “What I’ll assure our fans is, even though Jackie has left, our plans are bigger than this moment.

    “So, it feeds into the bigger and the broader plan going forwards.

    “In midfield, we also have more controlling players like Katie Zelem, Hayley Ladd and Jade Moore.

    “We also have expressive players like Lucy Staniforth, Vilde Boe Risa and Ella Toone.

    “So, we can mix the way we build, the way we play, the way we progress — whether we play a traditional system, or whether we play a different shape altogether.

    Skinner insists Man United have enough quality midfield players despite the departure of Jackie Groenen

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    Skinner insists Man United have enough quality midfield players despite the departure of Jackie GroenenCredit: Alamy

    “We have the numbers and the qualities that offer different variants so for us, we have always got that in mind.

    “I understand our fans’ frustration at this moment, but we have plenty of players that have the opportunity to step up and show their qualities.

    “We were not expecting Jackie’s departure to happen — but it was good business for everyone involved.”

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