Marc Skinner wants his Manchester United side to embrace the pressure of the end-of-season run-in as they attempt to venture into uncharted territory.
United were only reformed five years ago and are yet to get their hands on major silverware, but they top the Women’s Super League and can reach a maiden FA Cup final this weekend by overcoming Brighton.
While accepting there will be more scrutiny and attention on his players than ever before, Skinner has told them to relish the chance to make history for the nascent club.
“If we weren’t trying to be successful then there’s probably no pressure. We try to enjoy ourselves and perform the way we do.
“The reality is if we perform to the best of our availability, we can beat any team in this league.”
With Brighton bottom of the WSL and having been thrashed twice 4-0 this season by their opponents on Saturday, United will be favourites to book a trip to Wembley to face Aston Villa or Chelsea on May 14.
This, though, is their first FA Cup semi-final and Skinner is on his guard, with the Seagulls set to be led by Melissa Phillips for the first time after the American’s appointment as head coach last week.
“We have to earn our right to be there, we are not expecting anything easy against Brighton. We won’t be taking Brighton lightly at all.”
Ex-London City Lionesses boss Phillips takes the reins from caretaker Amy Merricks, who was in charge as Brighton crashed to a heavy defeat at home to United before the international break this month.
Skinner, whose side lead the WSL by a point ahead of Chelsea although the Blues have a game in hand, feels Phillips’ arrival might be a galvanising factor for Brighton.
“It’s very difficult to impart a new style of play, (there will) definitely be new ideas, definitely a freshness,” added Skinner, who was Birmingham head coach when they reached the FA Cup final in 2017.
However, she has returned to England in an effort to lead Brighton to a first FA Cup final and maintain their top-flight place – they are a point behind second-bottom Leicester but have two games in hand.
“My heart was here and Brighton has always felt like the right fit for me in terms of the ambition and the values that we share, and the direction they want to grow alongside the women’s game,” she said.
“We’re excited about the FA Cup game. We see it as an opportunity to really challenge ourselves against one of the best teams in the league and see where that stretches us and prepares us for the weeks ahead.
“Of course our priorities are going to be on the league but it’s not just about staying up for us, it’s about making sure that we give a good account of ourselves throughout the remaining league fixtures.”