The Manchester derby is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar and this evening’s fixture has taken on an extra edge.
Manchester City currently occupy third place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table, while the red half of Manchester currently reside in second. City will leapfrog United should they record a victory at The Academy Stadium.
Speaking to the press including FAWSL Full-Time in a pre-match press conference, City head coach Gareth Taylor highlighted not only the significance of this match but also the impact this period could have.
“We understand it’s an important game,” he said. “I think both clubs would admit to that.
“We spoke previously before the Arsenal game that Arsenal and then United were going to be two pivotal games in our season.”
However, he did then go on to downplay the wider importance such a fixture could have.
He added “I think both teams would still be in a title race regardless of a draw, a win, or a loss.”
Whatever the result this evening, it could have serious ramifications for the remainder of the season. Both teams are making a real push for the title and despite a slow start, Taylor’s City are in a rich vein of form at present whereas, Casey Stoney’s United side have struggled in recent weeks with defeats to Reading and Chelsea. The Manchester United manager has already fired a few shots across the bow ahead of the match by suggesting that City’s recent upturn in form is down to substantial budget, however, Taylor isn’t sure that is entirely accurate.
“I think it’s probably just been down to familiarity, players getting to know each other better, players getting to know me a little bit better, and me to know them,” he said. “I think it’s a bit of an easy way out to say it’s about budgets and what you have.
“It’s about hard work, and we put a lot of hard work in, we put a lot of effort in.”
Both sides brought in several big names over the summer which has seen the standards in both camps elevated, which Taylor attributes to the increased competitiveness in the title race.
“A lot of teams have strengthened and that’s made the competition even better,” he said.
United will be without star winger Tobin Heath who was vital to The Red Devils’ comeback in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. The absence of such an important player could prove crucial to where the points end up after 90 minutes, but City are not without injury concerns themselves.
“We’re uncertain with Sam (Mewis) and Demi (Stokes) whether they’re going to make the squad,” said Taylor. “It might have come a little too soon for them.”
Both teams still have plenty of depth in their squads with players that can make the difference if the chance presents itself. Therefore, it could come down to who performs on the night and given recent form, one could argue that City are most likely to do that.
Many people were left aghast last weekend as both Manchester United and Chelsea succumbed to shock defeats to Reading and Brighton & Hove Albion respectively. City took the opportunity to close the gap on the top two as they recorded victory at Arsenal, but was Taylor shocked to see his team afforded such a golden opportunity?
He said “I’m never really shocked in football, but it was a positive day for us. We had to go down and perform at Arsenal and we did.”
If his side are able to take all three points against United at The Academy Stadium, then it will certainly be another good day for Taylor. If City are able to maintain the form that has seen them get within touching distance of top spot they could very easily find themselves lifting the trophy in May.