Manchester United return to summit as Nikita Parris fires WSL win over Everton

Marc Skinner hailed working with the “most together group I’ve ever coached” after Manchester United returned to the summit of the Women’s Super League table and continued their unbeaten run with a convincing victory against Everton at Walton Hall Park.

Nikita Parris scored in the first half against her former club, with goals from Leah Galton and Hayley Ladd in the second as United increased their goal difference to 14.

“You don’t keep clean sheets and you don’t win games if your whole team is kind of bitty and not together,” Skinner said. “So the result’s fine and the win’s great but it’s the team togetherness that I’m so pleased with. I feel like this is the most together team I’ve ever coached.”

After missing out on a place in the Champions League by a single point last season, United are on a mission fuelled by being so close to the next milestone for the club.

This term, everything is clicking for Skinner’s team. Even without the injured forward Alessia Russo, who returned to the bench against Everton, the United train is rolling freely. “[I said at the] end of the season it hurts, hurt drives the hunger, we’re hungry,” Skinner said.

The trip to the in-form Everton began a run of tough games that will put the new hardier Red Devils to the test. Next weekend United host Chelsea and then after the international break the team travels to north London to play Arsenal.

Their opponents at a windy and rain-swept Walton Hall Park have been transformed by Brian Sørensen. The Danish manager joined the Toffees from Fortuna Hjørring in the summer, replacing the former Lyon manager Jean-Luc Vasseur. Vasseur had presided over a poor 10th-place finish, five places below their 2020-21 tally, with the Blues taking five wins and 20 points from 22 games.

Despite the threat of the home side, it took 13 minutes for United to break through the organised back three of Katrine Veje, Rikke Sevecke and Megan Finnigan.

The Everton goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, back in the starting lineup with United loanee Emily Ramsey ineligible, rose with Finnigan and Galton but it was the forward who got to the ball first, heading down into the run of Parris who fired into the empty net.

Everton’s Gabby George forced a smart save from the England goalkeeper Mary Earps almost instantly but despite the home side matching the visiting team in the middle they struggled to carve out chances against the United backline.

There were two changes for Everton at the break, with the Chelsea loanee Aggie Beever-Jones and Sweden’s Hanna Bennison off for Katja Snoeijs and Izzy Christiansen.

“It was because I wasn’t happy,” Sørensen said. “I felt that we were not putting in the effort that we should do. So that was why. We hoped also we could chase the game but at the end of the day I wasn’t fully happy with the effort.”

Whether it was the changes disrupting their rhythm or not, the Blues were made to work hard after the break and as United put their foot on the gas, Everton seemed to ease off theirs.

In the 55th minute United were rewarded for a patient and organised performance. Galton wrong-footed Finnigan and nutmegged Sevecke as she fired in past Brosnan.

The third was another quality strike, Ladd collecting from Lucía García before powering in from the edge of the box.

It was comfortable for Skinner’s side in the end, with Everton playing the last nine minutes with 10 players after Veje was forced off with an injury, and there was time for Russo to make her return from injury with 71 minutes on the clock.