Marc Skinner expressed his pride in his players after Manchester United drew 1-1 with Paris St Germain the first leg of their Champions League qualifying tie on a historic night at Leigh Sports Village.
Making their European debut, United found themselves under considerable pressure from their opponents in the first half before two-time Champions League finalists PSG took the lead nine minutes into the second via Tabitha Chawinga’s finish.
The hosts then responded impressively with substitutes to the fore and equalised via a 70th-minute header from one of them, on-loan Lyon forward Melvine Malard, who had also scored after coming on in last Friday’s 2-2 Women’s Super League draw with Arsenal at the same venue.
Boss Skinner said: “It was literally the cliche game of two halves in my opinion.
“I think the reality is the first half, that’s the fastest we have played against, the highest intensity. Even Arsenal, it was much more intense than that.
“I think it just took our players to see it, feel it, and then at half-time they fixed it. I’m so proud of the resilience first half, because they stayed in the game, some really good defending, and then second half I felt we had them on the ropes and we could have taken the game.
“It did feel like we could have won the game. In the end it felt probably fair as a draw.”
The second leg is in Paris next Wednesday as the sides vie for a place in the group stage.
Asked how confident he was about that match, Skinner said: “I believe we can do it anywhere, so I’m going to believe we can do it in Paris.
“I said to girls tonight we belong at this level, I have no doubt about that.
“We’re a club that is historic in the men’s Champions League, and we haven’t had time to do that in the women’s yet, so we have to earn it now. But we have great shoulders to stand on from our men’s team, and that’s what we have to take into the second leg, that belief that we’re Manchester United and we can beat anybody.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 10, 2023
“We’re going to go to Paris and believe we can win because if you don’t, there’s no point jumping on the plane.
“I feel if we match their physicality, we’re the better footballing team. I want to see us go there and don’t play with fear.”
Skinner also once again questioned the competition’s format, as he had done in the build-up to the match.
Skinner said: “If this isn’t as good as a quarter-final is in the actual tournament, I don’t know what you’re going to get.
“I’m seeing teams that are going to play tomorrow, no disrespect, that we would beat, and they’re playing to get in the Champions League proper, and that for me is strange.
“For me, it needs to be looked at. PSG have been in two finals, and yet we’re playing them in a qualifying game.
“The teams are ready to expand. We have four or five in this country that could play in the Champions League. I think it’s ready to expand.”
The United-PSG contest is one of five ties in the ‘league path’ of the second qualifying round, which also features two-time winners and last season’s runners-up Wolfsburg.
There are also seven ‘champions path’ ties involving sides who won their leagues in 2022-23.
WSL champions Chelsea are among the automatic qualifiers for the group stage, which features 16 teams across four pools. Arsenal were eliminated in the first qualifying round.