Manchester United manager Marc Skinner stayed behind for nearly an hour after his side’s final WSL home game of the season on Sunday to speak with fans, take pictures and sign autographs.
Most of the United players were still out on the pitch doing similar for at least half an hour, before going on to meet and spend time with more of the supporters outside the stadium afterwards.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps literally brought out a bag of kit to hand items out to young fans gathered by the pitch, a small gesture on her part that would probably have made their year.
An hour from Skinner was at the rather extreme end and indicative of it being the club’s last home game this season. But that close connection between managers and players and the loyal fans who support them is a familiar sight throughout the WSL, whether Arsenal, Chelsea or wherever.
It doesn’t happen like that in the men’s game and it is that which makes women’s football special, compared to the Premier League where it can so often feel like an ‘us and them’ disconnect between those on the pitch and those in the stands.
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Numbers of course come into it, but the mentality is also different in the women’s game.
“It’s the most [important]. I don’t often get the time to sit and speak to [fans]. It’s brilliant, I’ve got my daughter with me, but I’m seeing young girls who are growing with the game and they’re going to be the next generation to really push our game,” Skinner explained.
He apologised for delaying his post-match duties by so long but it was something he wanted to do.
“We’re privileged at Manchester United, we’ve got the best fans in the country, bar none. I think it’s really important at times to give them your time, just to show how much we really care for them,” the boss added.
Skinner had alluded to similar points after the team’s momentous game at Old Trafford in March, highlighting that side of the women’s game as something that will ultimately drive its wider growth.
“When we can feel close to something, we feel part of it. That’s just human nature,” he said at the time, explaining that it will ultimately help bring more fans into the sport and fill stadiums.
“To fill Leigh [Sports Village], we just need to expose the players so that [people] can see what we’re doing. Women’s football has always been a little bit more unique, where you feel like you can touch it more. Men’s football has obviously been built for so long that it’s hard to touch it.”
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