Skinner praises ‘hunger’ as Red Devils step up pressure on rivals in Champions League race
MARC SKINNER has praised his players’ hunger after Manchester United demolished Aston Villa in a 5-0 beating.
A brace from Ella Toone was among the goals that helped the club put pressure on their Champions League opponents.
The result saw them momentarily drop to third place before Tottenham clinched a 1-0 home win over Everton.
And United widened a three-point gap on Brighton – and five points on Man City – with the two sides one game short.
Skinner said, “I just said to the players, Merry Christmas! The players are eager to counter, eager to set traps.
“We’re building momentum throughout the season – we’ve got some real quality players here, can we keep investing in that for a long time.
“I can’t ask for more from the players. I said (to the players) at the end that we gave absolutely everything, that’s all I’m asking. “
Toone’s goals in each half saw him take his WSL tally to three in nine appearances this quarter.
Skinner added, “Ella has that quality and it’s my job to keep pushing her and see what ceilings she can shatter.
“She has great tenacity, great qualities with the ball. She’s going to be wonderful for Manchester United and for England.
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The clash at Leigh Park Village was one of only three games to go on Sunday with coronavirus concerns and three games canceled.
And the home side were without full-backs Ona Battle and Hannah Blundell, both of whom tested positive for Covid.
Villa had some decent forays into the opening minutes with Maz Pacheco nearly hitting Emily Gielnik in the area of their rivals.
But Man Utd started to dominate possession and took the lead around the eighth minute with a Vilde Boe Risa taking Toone for his swept goal.
And they then doubled their lead around the quarter-hour with captain Katie Zelem scoring on the spot, after Hampton was on trial for fouling Hayley Ladd in the box.
Villa believed they had a penalty themselves moments later, with Remi Allen calling for handball against Zelem after Chaney Boye-Hlorkah’s ball into the penalty area.
But their appeals were dismissed by referee Rebecca Welch.
The visitors seemed to cause problems with a corner kick around half an hour with Maz Pacheco’s dangerous ball in the box.
But they could not take advantage of it with goalkeeper Mary Earps considered to be the victim of a foul.
The Red Devils – who held most of the possession – nearly got a third after half an hour of play with Ladd’s shot deflected off the side.
And Alessia Russio saw her effort superbly cleared from the line with Carla Ward’s side struggling to keep the score line 2-0.
However, the second spell saw United move up three points into the 50e minute with the loopy effort of Lucy Staniforth.
And Villa’s problems were compounded by the departure of Hampton with just under half an hour to play following the effects of a first-half injury.
United put more pressure on rivals with a 4-0 lead as Kirsty Hanson danced past her markers to put Martha Thomas in place in the 73e minute.
And Toone wrapped up the victory by hitting in a rebound after Elisha N’Dow’s clearance on Alessia Russo’s cross.
That leaves the Villans, who will face Everton in the New Year, without a point in their last three games.
The Villa Ward boss said: “After Christmas we have to re-evaluate the system we’re playing and how we’re going to play because quite honestly recently we’ve got a bit of a mess.
“We have to get back to basics, we have to get it right.”
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