Marc Skinner said Man United capitalized on a “terrified” Chelsea in the first half before the champions came from behind to win 4-2 and seal a third consecutive league title.
Goals from Martha Thomas and Ella Toone either side of Erin Cuthbert’s effort put the Red Devils 2-1 up at the break as Chelsea looked to retain their Barclays FA Women’s Super League crown.
But the Blues came out firing in the second half, with Sam Kerr scoring two sensational volleys and winger Guro Reiten finishing off a fast counter-attack to turn the game on its head.
And after his side missed out on Champions League qualification, Skinner admitted that Chelsea’s strength in depth ultimately told as United failed to convert their first-half dominance.
The Man United boss said: “Do you what it probably was – they looked terrified first half, and second half because we’re winning, what you got to lose? The mindset changes.
“When we hit them as hard as we did in the first half, it’s going to rock you but they have that experience to fall back on and they have the changes and depth in the squad to do that, we need to invest in that area , we’re going to invest in that area.
“We knew they’d changed shape because it didn’t work for them in the first half, they’d changed shape, adapted from their previous games and it played into our hands really.
“They progressed more, threw caution to the wind because they could, and honestly the goals we conceded are not good from our standard.”
United were much the better of the sides in the opening exchanges and were rewarded when Thomas got onto the end of Katie Zelem’s perfect ball from a free-kick after 13 minutes.
Cuthbert emphatically leveled the scores with a powerful strike into the bottom corner five minutes later before Toone connected superbly with a volley on 25 minutes to put the visitors back in front.
Emma Hayes made two changes at half-time and they had the desired effect immediately when Australian star Kerr scored her first goal just a minute into the second half at Kingsmeadow.
Reiten then tucked away a breakaway goal on 51 minutes to put Chelsea ahead for the first time before Kerr scored her 20th league goal of the season with an audacious volley,
And after neighbors Manchester City broke to a 4-0 success at Reading to secure the last European spot, Skinner reflected on an up-and-down first season in charge after United were forced to settle for fourth.
“I’m knackered,” he said. “No honestly, I’m so proud of all of them, I’ve asked them to play a slightly different style of football and adapt and evolve and we’ve had very many good moments this year.
“We’ve slipped off at moments and probably taken too many draws, so I think we can reflect on that, but more importantly, there’s a hunger in them.
“Everybody in life now wants a fast food fix, we all want to win now, spend a bit of money and you want to win right now, you do this you want to win right now.
“I think we forget and neglect that you can win in an instant, but if a loss doesn’t burn and you don’t learn from it, you can’t really sustain that for a long time.”
Skinner added that it was too soon to pick the bones out of the 2021/22 campaign but reiterated that his long-term goal is to lead Man United to silverware success in the future.
“Somebody said reflect on this season, but look, I just can’t, I probably will when we relax for just a second, but I promise you now, I’m not resting until we are champions of something.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.