Chelsea Women at Manchester United: FA Cup preview, predicted XI

We've entered the biggest stretch of the campaign, the time of the season when Chelsea Women have consistently shown why it's the most elite club in England. It begins in Manchester on Sunday afternoon in the FA Cup.
Chelsea FC  v Manchester United - Barclays Womens Super League
Chelsea FC v Manchester United - Barclays Womens Super League / Crystal Pix/MB Media/GettyImages
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Another international window comes and goes, and it begins to get real. After all these years, Emma Hayes' departure is practically imminent. Five more in the Women's Super League. Three more at the minimum across two different knockout competitions. If all goes well, Hayes will be on the sideline for 10 fixtures between this weekend and the end of May. It all starts in the FA Cup up in Northern England on Sunday afternoon in a rematch of last year's final.

An inconsistent Manchester United sits in the way of Chelsea Women reaching its fourth consecutive FA Cup final. Led (still) by Marc Skinner, a guy most United fans want out the door, the Red Devils have more than doubled their loss total in the league compared to the last campaign. Per The Athletic, MUFC has offered Skinner a contract extension, but the two parties have not agreed on the terms yet. The report states that they're continuing to talk with Skinner's contract expiring upon the conclusion of the season.

United lost two of its most important assets to a second-place finish in the WSL last year in Ona Batlle and Alessia Russo. The two left for clubs with a track record of European success after finishing as two of the 18 players across the English top flight in 2022/23 with at least 10 goal contributions. Since then, the frailty of the team has been exposed. Last year, the Red Devils owned the best defense behind Mary Earps' brilliance. That's not the case this time around. Skinner's team has already conceded 11 more goals than it did last campaign with 360 minutes of league football left.

A thumping of Brighton and Hove Albion in the quarterfinals which included three first-half goals put United in the FA Cup's last four. Its reward: a meeting with an outfit it has never beaten in its history. Prior to reaching Wembley in May 2023, the outfit had never reached an FA Cup semifinal.