A Moment in History: The first WSL Manchester derby

For the first time in WSL history, City play host to their cross-town rivals United in the Manchester derby.

After more than a decade on the sideline, United Women are back in business. Their return to action began in the Championship last season. The Red Devils were eventually crowned victors and earned their promotion to the WSL.

It’s clear, however, that United have a chip on their shoulder. In their absence, City Women have become one of the biggest sides in English football and still boast a list of big names.

Come tomorrow evening, that won’t matter. The Reds will look to prove to the world that they’re back and they’re here to stay.

To set the mood, we attended the launch of Dr. Gary James’ newest book, ‘Manchester City Women: An Oral History’. The evening was spent looking back over the history of the Man City Women’s team and their build-up to this historic derby.

Joining us at the event was Man City and England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. The Lionesses No.1 is currently recovering from a hamstring injury and is unable to participate in the derby.

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“I’m gutted I can’t be a part of it,” Bardsley said. “It’s a historic time for the club and the league. It’s a testament to the progress the game has made in a short space of time.

Bardsley goes on to say how being able to host Man United at the Etihad is a dream come true.

A hearty history

Neil Mather, the Man City Women’s first-ever manager said he never thought his side would be taken seriously enough to become a professional team.

After seeing what they have achieved in recent years, Mather said at Gary James’ book launch that he’s delighted and still can’t quite believe it.

“Did I ever think it would be professional? No. It was never taken seriously enough.”

First MCW Manager, Neil Mather

Alongside Mather at the book launch, the longest-serving Man City player stepped forward. Lindsay Savage joined the Citizens back in 1997 and amassed over 350 appearances.

22 years after Savage’s debut, the team are now one of the best in England.

The reigning FA Cup champions will prepare to host their Mancunian rivals at the Etihad on Saturday. Man United will be going into the fixture as underdogs, but shouldn’t be underestimated.

The red dawn

Manchester United’s former women’s team disbanded in 2005. Now the Red Devils have arguably the most exciting women’s football project in motion.

Reforming in 2018, Casey Stoney sat at the head of the Man United table. Kitting her team out with some exciting prospects and natural talent, she drove her team to the top of the Championship.

Manchester United will ready themselves for their first season in the WSL. Their first hurdle being none other than their biggest rivals.

Despite preparing to face one of the best sides in England, Man United will want to put up a fight. Stoney’s side topped the Championship table last season on 55 points, nine points clear of Tottenham in second place.

The Red Devils will definitely be using their Championship victory as their motivation this campaign.

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They might have lost their captain in Alex Greenwood, but they still managed to strengthen their side by adding the likes of Jackie Groenen to their roster. However, Man City have also been recruiting.

Their additions of Ellen White and Laura Coombs means more attacking threat. With Mary Earps stepping in for Siobhan Chamberlain, the pressure will be on.

With their new captain Katie Zelem ready to lead them out, Manchester United will look at the derby as a statement game. A chance to let the world know, there’s a new big player in Women’s European football.