Have Man Utd seen enough? Keating stops Chelsea – Full Time with Jessy Parker Humphreys

Welcome to Full Time, The Athletic’s women’s football column, a one-stop shop every Monday to discuss the big issues in the game in the UK and Europe.

This weekend, there was the usual line-up of Women’s Super League fixtures across the country.

There was more than one huge clash — Arsenal hosted Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium while Manchester City faced Chelsea — and many other crucial games in the WSL and beyond…

The main talking point

At what point will the Manchester United hierarchy feel like they have seen enough?

Their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in front of a sell-out crowd at the Emirates was one of their worst performances of the season, but right now, manager Marc Skinner seems to have more lives than a cat. The result meant United have now lost their last three matches against the WSL top three by that same scoreline.

In truth, Arsenal barely had to break a sweat against their opponents. Despite a high-intensity start that put Arsenal goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and centre-back Laia Codina under pressure, within five minutes any potency had evaporated. United struggled to play out from the back, with large gaps between Katie Zelem and the rest of her midfield making it easy for Arsenal to close off passing channels.

The press from United’s front three was unbelievably disorganised. All three of Arsenal’s goals came from defensive errors, with Geyse scoring the own goal from a corner, Katie Zelem clearing the ball directly onto Cloe Lacasse’s head for the second, before Gemma Evans rounded off the errors by tripping Beth Mead in the penalty area, with Kim Little converting the resulting spot kick.

This was a performance that covered not one United player on the pitch in glory.

Lacasse celebrates putting Arsenal 2-0 up (Paul Harding/Getty Images)

Evans, who had come into the team due to Jayde Riviere being unavailable through injury, typified the problem United have.

It is no surprise that Evans looked out of her depth in a match of this level given she had finished bottom of the WSL with all three of her previous clubs. It is not Evans’ fault she has ended up in this position, but it highlights the head-scratching transfers that United have made over the past two years. For all of Skinner’s complaints in press conferences about the quality of players he has available, his track record in identifying them hasn’t been great.

This defeat for United pretty firmly ends their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, with there now being a seven-point gap between them and Arsenal. If anything, United should be looking nervously over their shoulder, as Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Brighton means they are now only two points behind.

Skinner’s contract expires at the end of the season and perhaps United feel like there is nothing to be gained by letting him go now, but this team are a long way from salvaging anything and while fingers have been pointed at injuries and recruitment, a lot of it lies with the manager himself.

What you might have missed…

While the WSL title race has been hotting up this weekend, the Women’s Championship is looking just as exciting. Sunderland’s 4-3 win over bottom-placed Lewes was the highlight.

As the clock ticked past the 90-minute mark, it looked as if Lewes were going to get a crucial win that would have lifted them out of the relegation zone. Instead, two quick-fire goals from Jenna Dear in the 95th and 97th minute completed a remarkable turnaround to send Sunderland top of the league.

Both Crystal Palace (second) and Charlton (fourth) could go above them if they win their games in hand, while Southampton (third) are also in the mix. With most teams having six matches left to play, the race to reach the WSL looks like it will be going down to the wire.

Moment of the week

Sometimes in a title race, you see moments that you know will end up in a highlights reel if a team is crowned champions come the end of the season.

Khiara Keating’s double save against Chelsea was one of those moments as she kept her seventh WSL clean sheet of the season and her first against a top-four side. It also helped Manchester City become the first team in more than three years to leave Kingsmeadow with a win.

In the 95th minute, Keating initially palmed away Jelena Cankovic’s shot before smothering the ball as Sjoeke Nusken looked certain to turn the rebound home. City know all about being foiled by a goalkeeper in pursuit of the title, having been on the receiving end of some of Ann-Katrin Berger’s best-ever performances in a Chelsea shirt.

The tables were turned on Friday night and if City do go on to win the title, Keating will have played a crucial role.

Goal of the week

It was all about the Italian connection at Walton Hall Park as Martina Piemonte and Aurora Galli scored and assisted both of Everton’s quick-fire goals in their 2-0 win over West Ham.

Piemonte has one of the best non-penalty xGs per 90 in the league, but this was only her second league goal as she headed in Galli’s free kick in the 83rd minute.

Galli was not to be outdone for the second goal, though, with Piemonte heading the ball forward to her from just inside West Ham’s half. Galli drove forward before cutting in and curling a left-footed shot beyond goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold to secure Everton an important three points.

Player of the week

Two of Aston Villa’s most important players were unavailable to start against Tottenham Hotspur: Rachel Daly is serving a three-match ban for violent conduct and Kenza Dali was not fit enough to start. This meant Carla Ward’s side was looking for a moment of magic from someone else — and it came in the form of Jordan Nobbs.

Given her 13-year association with Arsenal, Nobbs surely needed no encouragement when it comes to playing against Spurs. It was her shot from the edge of the area that gave Villa a 2-1 lead and the win.

Villa’s midfield has gone through a lot of turmoil this season, but Nobbs has been someone Ward can rely on. Crucially, the win means Aston Villa (eighth) are now only three points behind Spurs (sixth) and could still manage a top-half finish.

What’s coming up?

Most players are heading off now for the international break. Leah Williamson has been forced to pull out of the England squad with a hamstring injury that ruled her out of Arsenal’s game against Manchester United.

England will play friendlies against Austria (Friday) and Italy (next Tuesday) in Algeciras, Spain, while the final four teams in the Nations League face off as Spain play the Netherlands and France host Germany.

(Top photo: Charlotte Tattersall – MUFC/Manchester United via Getty Images)

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