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‘I’m treated the same way as Solskjaer’ – Man Utd boss Stoney embracing criticism in women's game

The former England defender was criticised on social media when the Red Devils lost to Bristol recently, but she believes the scrutiny is a good thing

Manchester United boss Casey Stoney insists increased criticism for her team is a positive and believes she is now judged byt the same standards as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Questions were raised of the 37-year-old when relegation-battling Bristol City ran out 1-0 winners in Manchester last weekend.

However, Stoney is not fazed by the shift that has followed the professionalism of the women’s game.

“I don’t see it as a negative at all. We have incredible fans, and they’re there to judge me,” she said.

“I actually see it as a positive because they’re judging the game now, and they’re treating me the same way as they treat Ole.

“It’s just preparing our players now to have a mindset to be able to deal with it and have the resilience to be able to cope, and maybe strategies where they just don’t read it sometimes, so they don’t get affected by it.

“I always say, you criticise anybody, they take it personally. It doesn’t matter what you’ve said. Players are human. They’re not multi-millionaires, and even if they are, they’re still human.

“It’s my job to protect them, but we can’t protect them from that if they choose to read it, so we do a lot of work, a lot of education, and we work as a team to try and protect each other.

“We want visibility and we want people to judge the game for the game, rather than saying, ‘Oh, unlucky’.

“It’s a football game, and we don’t want to be treated any differently to the male players.

“The difference is: the male players are used to it. The women’s game isn’t used to it, and it’s a big wake-up call for a lot of them because they read it.

“I don’t have anything in terms of social media. I have literally turned everything off.

“I did that this summer: I learned a very quick lesson to just turn it all off, because a player leaves – it’s my fault. We lose – it’s my fault. Someone kicks the ball in the wrong direction – it’s my fault.

“That’s absolutely fine. I have responsibility for this football club.

“It is a big club with a huge fanbase – I see that as a huge opportunity to be able to showcase the women’s game and build the women’s game.”

For Stoney, it is easy to switch off from that criticism on social media, but different measures must be taken for her players, who are from a “different era”.

“We’ve had social media training several times,” she explains, with the club working hard to ensure the welfare of their players through a series of sessions with well-being coaches and very regular one-to-one meetings with staff and players.

“I always say to players, you’re only ever as good as your last game, so if you didn’t play well, you’re going to get it on [social media].

“They also need to realise that, externally, people don’t know what I’ve asked them to do.

“For me, and what I’ve asked of them in that game plan, they could have been a 10 out of 10, but for a neutral watching, maybe they didn’t get forward enough. Maybe they didn’t get on the ball enough.”

The scrutiny is something that is helping Stoney, who is in just her second season as a head coach, to grow too.

 “I’m learning the buck stops with me and it should always,” she said.

“Every time there is a defeat, I need to look back at what our preparation was like, what were my key messages, did everyone know their roles and responsibilities? Because if they didn’t, then it was on me.

“Sometimes players have an off day. They are human. Unfortunately, under me, they are not allowed an off day! But we all have them.

“The weight of the badge comes with an expectation to perform no matter what.

“I see the weight of the badge as an opportunity and I’m trying to get my players to see it as an opportunity, and not a threat, because it can change their lives.

“They don’t ever go out there to play or perform badly, knowing the scrutiny they are under, but you have to move forward quickly and learn.

“It’s then how you pick your players back up and give them the confidence to believe they can go again in the next game and win.”

United were unable to do that on Sunday as their match agianst Liverpool was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, leaving them fifth in the WSL standings .

But, for Stoney, it’s about more than just the short-term successes.

“I know internally what we’re working on,” she explained.

“I knew whether players stuck to it or not. I know where we’re going long-term and the vision, and I know we’re going to have bumps.

“I think people forget we are 18 months into a long-term plan.”

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