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Pride Coach Marc Skinner Reportedly Agrees to Terms with Manchester United

According to reports, the Orlando Pride’s gaffer is one step closer to leaving the club for an England return.

Orlando Pride v North Carolina Courage Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The Orlando Pride may soon be seeking a new coach. According to BBC Sports reporter Emma Sanders, Manchester United and Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner have agreed to terms. United’s interest in Skinner surfaced July 10 in The Athletic and it appears the Manchester giants will soon have their man.

Skinner is under contract through 2021 with Orlando and per Telegraph women’s football writer Tom Garry, there is still the not-so-small matter of the two clubs settling on the details to allow Skinner to make his return to England.

Neither club is commenting on the situation at the moment, and neither will until there is an agreement officially in place.

The Pride named Skinner the second ever head coach in club history on Jan. 14, 2019. After succeeding Tom Sermanni, Skinner had one of the most difficult starts to a tenure that one could imagine. His 2019 squad wasn’t a deep one and it was devastated by international call-ups for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, losing the core of the team, including starters Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Marta, Emily van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy, and Shelina Zadorsky, as well as reserve Camila. That 2019 squad also had to deal with Sydney Leroux’s pregnancy and defender Toni Pressley going through treatment for breast cancer, stumbling to a franchise-worst record of 4-16-4.

Then, in 2020, the global pandemic hit and wiped out the entire NWSL regular season. An outbreak of COVID-19 on the team caused the Pride to be the only club in the league to pull out of the inaugural NWSL Challenge Cup and an exodus of players to Europe meant the team went into the 2020 NWSL Fall Series with a young squad, with multiple players who more or less glorified trialists. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and travel and immigration restrictions, the club also couldn’t make a lot of personnel changes for basically a full calendar year.

Skinner’s side showed promise in finishing the group stage of the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup with a 1-1-2 record, with a pair of late goals conceded against Louisville and Gotham all that kept Orlando out of the competition’s final. With Skinner’s team finally together at the beginning of the 2021 regular season, the Pride got off to its best ever start in the NWSL, reeling off seven consecutive matches without a loss (4-0-3). Orlando sat atop the league standings a full third of the way through the season.

Since then, the Pride have lost several key players to the Olympics — as well as others to injury — and have once again spiraled down the standings. Orlando has gone 0-3-1 over the last four matches, not looking particularly good during any of them, and needed a 94th-minute miracle ball through a crowd to Leroux just to salvage the team’s only point during this stretch. At no point over the last four games, dating back to June 26, have the Pride held a lead at any point in a game.

Skinner’s record with the Pride now stands at 9-22-12 in 43 matches in all competitions, and just 8-19-8 in 36 NWSL games. While there’s nothing to suggest that his job with Orlando was, or is, in imminent jeopardy, the club has changed ownership, with the Wilf family taking over just yesterday. The Wilf family has been vocal in placing a great deal of importance on the Pride’s success during its pursuit of all of Orlando City SC properties, and the fact is that a prolonged slide down the table could certainly have Skinner’s seat getting hotter.

When you add in the fact that Skinner is often separated from his partner, Laura Bassett, and his three-year-old daughter by the Atlantic Ocean, it made perfect sense for the former Birmingham City coach to explore an opportunity to return to England. Add in that it’s with one of the biggest clubs on the planet and he’d have been a fool not to listen to a Manchester United offer.

If Skinner is set on taking the Manchester United offer, it’s unlikely the Pride will stand in his way. However, the clubs must come to a settlement quickly. The WSL season starts on Sept. 3. The NWSL season ends in late October, so the Pride would either have to find a new coach in short order or finish out the 2021 campaign with an interim coach — all while the Pride still sit above the playoff line and are trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.