Manchester United manager Marc Skinner criticizes the “absurd” Women’s Champions League qualifying structure

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Manchester United boss Marc Skinner blasted UEFA’s qualifying system and officiating standards after his team were eliminated from the Champions League last night.

United missed out on a place in the 16-team group stage after a 3-1 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain saw the French side progress with a 4-2 aggregate victory.

Skinner’s side, who finished second in the Women’s Super League last season, were guaranteed a difficult tie because of UEFA’s qualifying format and the fact they were unseeded in their pathway.

Only the champions of Spain, Germany and France, the highest ranked nations in UEFA’s coefficient, qualified automatically. 

The fourth spot is reserved for the winners of the Champions League but that place was awarded to Chelsea because reigning champions Barcelona had already qualified through winning Spain’s top flight.

Man United manager Marc Skinner, pictured with Ella Toone, has blasted the match officials

Chelsea remain as the only English club in the UEFA women's Champions League group stages

Chelsea remain as the only English club in the UEFA women’s Champions League group stages

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Other clubs who won their domestic leagues were placed into the ‘champions path’ while those finished in lower positions were placed in the ‘league path’. 

This meant there were some incredibly one-sided ties, with Czech champions Slavia Praha beating Romanian champions Olimpia Cluj 11-0 on aggregate.

Wolfsburg, who were defeated finalists last season, were also eliminated on Wednesday while Arsenal – who reached the semi-final, were beaten in the first round of qualifying.

‘We deserve to be at this level, I’ve no doubt about that,’ Skinner said. 

‘There are teams going through to this competition [group stage] that are not good enough. Our standard is better than that standard, and it’s crazy that we have to play PSG at this qualifying round, crazy. And it needs to be something that’s addressed.

‘The word is: crazy. You saw how hard we had to work last year to get into a qualifying round? It’s crazy right? Look how far Arsenal went last year, look how far Chelsea went, and yet we’re still having to qualify? 

‘It doesn’t work. And if something doesn’t work, you should look at fixing it. What I mean is there are other teams in other leagues, Wolfsburg have gone out tonight, they were in the final last year, mad, that can’t happen right? 

Skinner discusses the match's events with UEFA's officials after his side's 3-1 loss to PSG

Skinner discusses the match’s events with UEFA’s officials after his side’s 3-1 loss to PSG

PSG’s Lieke Martens scored two goals to send United crashing out of the competition

‘One or two games and you’re out of the Champions League? But you get through to the Group Stage and you get your momentum and can run with it and the best teams get through. I don’t think right now that the best teams are getting out of these qualifying rounds.’

Chelsea will be the only English team to compete in the group stage this season, but Skinner does not believe that is a reflection on the standard of the WSL.

‘I think if you put any of the top four [in the WSL] from last season against any team in Europe, I think they’d hold their own. So no, I don’t think it’s a reflection on our league. 

‘In fact I think it’s more difficult to qualify from our league than many of the others. I look at this and congratulations to both PSG and Paris FC for progressing, congratulations to them, but the reality is if they were in our league I think they’d find it difficult against the teams and quality that we [the WSL] have, so no I think it’s that the coefficients and the standards of leagues is not equal across Europe, right? 

‘Because probably there’s more money in England. But from our perspective, it has to be, and we have easily four, five teams that could compete at the latter stages of the Champions League in our league, so it’s more difficult. 

‘And I don’t think there’s anyone that would disagree with that. So it’s part and parcel but I hope something is changed because we want the best teams in the Champions League, not just a spread of some average teams.’

Skinner was also critical of the officiating in their defeat by PSG on Wednesday, particularly the decision to disallow Leah Galton’s goal, which would have pulled United back to 3-2 on the night.

Sandy Baltimore netted the third of the night for the hosts to send Manchester United crashing out

Sandy Baltimore netted the third of the night for the hosts to send Manchester United crashing out

The United boss also said that VAR should be used earlier in the competition, with current rules meaning the technology is only used in the knockout stages.

‘I feel we get some questionable decisions, shall we say,’ Skinner added. 

‘That is 100 percent a goal, I have no doubt about it, that should be 3-2 and then we’re in the momentum and we see how the game goes. I

‘l’ll try to refrain from words that will get me into trouble but that’s not good enough at this level. Not good enough. 

‘That is a goal. Leah Galton has got the ball, doesn’t have contact with the goalkeeper and it’s given a foul against the goalkeeper. Ridiculous.

‘If you’re going to draw teams against each other like PSG and Manchester United I think you should have VAR.

‘What we’ve also got, I won’t say too much, but the experience of the officials also comes into it. It’s a big game, so there’s a big atmosphere, there’s a lot on the game – they’ve got to step up as well. Decisions like goals like that, they can’t be wrong.

‘If they’re going to be wrong because we’ve got a lag in what we need in quality, then we have to use technology and I don’t think it’s the be all and end all – there’s a lot of mistakes that come with that as well but if you want parity and the ability to have a fair challenge then of course it should be used, especially in games like this at big stadiums.’


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