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Birkirkara friendly a perfect chance to gear up for second part of season, says Man. United boss

Birkirkara coach Jose Borg (left) alongside Marc Skinner, the Man. United manager. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Manchester United Women’s coach Marc Skinner feels privileged to have the opportunity of coaching his side in today’s international friendly against Birkirkara.

The Red Devils will take on the Maltese women’s champions at the Tony Bezzina Stadium this evening (kick-off: 6pm), in front of what is expected to be a record crowd for a women’s game in Malta.

According to the Malta Football Association’s statistics, the record attendance was 764 when the senior women’s national team hosted Italy during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2020 qualifications at the Centenary Stadium.

“We are looking forward to play here because it is a privilege for us to be part of such an event,” Skinner told a news conference.

“This game will serve as an opportunity to try as many players as possible, keeping every player hungry for opportunities as we want to head to the second part of the season in the best possible way.

“This is an opportunity to continually develop our style in order to be quicker, stronger, and faster.”

Asked about Manchester United Women’s stay in Malta, Skinner heaped praise on their environment and surroundings.

“It is nice to be here in Malta, having already tried to come here last year but could not make it due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he explained.

“It is a privilege for us to be here as we are enjoying this opportunity and obviously, this weather makes it for a perfect training camp for our players.”

Following Birkirkara’s game, Manchester United will turn their focus on their next Women’s Super League game which will be a home game against rivals Liverpool.

Skinner’s side currently sit third on 22 points after nine outings as they trail leaders Chelsea by five.

They boast the second-best defensive record, with just six goals conceded and have found the net on 24 occasions including nine in their last three league games where they picked up seven points against Arsenal (3-2), Aston Villa (5-0) and Manchester City (1-1).

“We started the league very well and as Manchester United, we are always striving to win titles,” United’s coach said.

“This season, we are in a position to challenge Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City and we are excited for the second part of the campaign.

“Liverpool will be our next opponent, it won’t be easy but we will try to exploit our home advantage to pick up the three points.”

In recent years, the English Women’s Super League has steadily grown into one of the biggest championships in the women’s game across the globe. Skinner himself describes it as the ‘best league in the world’.

“Interestingly, both England and Malta share similar struggles when it comes to growing this game, but in our case, it has grown exponentially which means expectations and responsibilities on the players are also increasing.”

Among the most notable players of Manchester United Women are Mary Earps, Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Nikita Parris who were part of the triumphant England side during last summer’s European Championships.

The interest and coverage around the Lionesses during that summer was unprecedented and Skinner believes that there has been no drop off from the media when it comes to cover the game at club level as well.

The Manchester United coach pointed out that this season, his club broke the attendance record of a home game played at Old Trafford.

In fact, back in December over 30,000 supporters flocked to the Theatre of Dreams to surpass the previous record of 20,241 fans.

“These athletes deserve these platforms and it’s in our interest, the clubs, to keep pushing and help this movement grow,” Skinner said.

Jose Borg, Birkirkara’s coach, echoed Skinner’s thoughts.

He said that for Birkirkara it was a privilege to be part of this friendly and hopefully this can inspire even more girls to start playing the Beautiful Game.

“The women’s game in Malta is growing very fast and I believe it is the biggest female sport on our islands,” Borg told the media.

“As for our side, we have squad with young players whose idols are Manchester United players so for them is an amazing chance to share the field with their role models.

“We can’t wait to play in front of a sold-out crowd.”

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