Women’s Manchester derby promises bite and quality in equal measure

Manchester United and Manchester City meet for the second time in the space of a fortnight when the pair go toe-to-toe at Leigh Sports Village in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.

Despite the fixture still being in its infancy, the Manchester derby has already established itself as one of the most entertaining clashes in the women’s football calendar.

The pair met for the first time since the 2018 reform of United’s women’s team just two-and-a-half years ago, but in that time the fixture has already served up two record breaking attendances, two red cards and two Puskas Award-nominated goals.

It’s a game that promises bite and quality in equal measure, with the former likely to be intensified in front of a raucous Leigh crowd. Marc Skinner has called on his players to match City’s aggression ahead of the fixture.

“There were too many duels we lost [in the last derby],” the United boss said. “That’s nothing to do with tactics or technique. That’s more your passion to make sure the opposition don’t get the upper hand. Man City are always going to be aggressive in their backyard with 5,000 fans cheering them on.

“One of the things that summed that game up for me was when Georgia Stanway pushed Hannah Blundell into the [advertising hoarding] – that’s an off the ball issue, but what it showed me was [Stanway’s] aggression in that moment. What we need to do is match that aggression, if not go past it. We’re not talking [causing] injuries, but within the laws of the game, you have to be competitive and that something we need to do because [City] are super competitive.”

The most recent Manchester derby was settled by a piece of individual genius from Caroline Weir – not the first, or even the second time the City midfielder has produced something spectacular in the fixture.

Weir almost entirely replicated the audacious chip that had put the icing on the City victory in 2021 to settle proceedings a fortnight ago, another goal in the roller-decks of stunning solo efforts from the Scotland midfielder against United.

“She seems to have a knack in those games – she doesn’t score two yard tap ins against United,” said City boss Gareth Taylor.

“I thought this one [against United in February 2022] was probably really special. They’re all special, but we had a record there on Sunday willing us to get the victory in a game that we should have won way before Caroline scored. It was a magical moment and one that will live in the memory for a long time.”

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