Sell-out Man City vs Man United WSL derby is step forward for Manchester says Gareth Taylor

History will be made in Manchester football this weekend, as the first sell-out Women’s Super League derby takes place at the Academy Stadium.

Since United Women reformed in 2018, six of the eight meetings have been held at Leigh Sports Village, where the Reds play their home games. Of the two games City have hosted, the first came at the Etihad in 2019 in front of a then-WSL record 31,213, and last year’s home game was behind closed doors.

So incredibly, Sunday’s meeting at the City Football Academy will be City’s first ‘proper’ home game against United with supporters, and fans have responded by snapping up all tickets available with three days to spare.

That could see a stadium record attendance, with the ground across the road from the Etihad holding 7,000 fans, and City boss Taylor says Sunday will be a big day for women’s football in Manchester.

“I’m excited, looking forward to it,” he said.

“It’s a sell-out, sold out three days before the game which is fantastic for the City that the game is drawing in spectators. It’s exciting and one we’re looking forward to.

“We’ve been away for too long. We missed it [having supporters in the stands] when we didn’t have it last season. It’s no secret that football isn’t anything without supporters. It’s so much more different now supporters are back, it was strange at first when we were reintroduced.

“The fact it’s sold out, supporters from both teams, it’s a great advert for the women’s game and we’re moving in the right direction. Long may it continue.”

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With United in third place in the WSL, five points ahead of City, the Blues know their Champions League hopes could be over if they don’t beat their rivals. Taylor wouldn’t rule a top-three finish out entirely, but he did accept the two sides are performing at their highest collective levels this season.

“It would look that way,” he said. “Both teams up there, it’s great. We’ve seen it in other periods, last season United made a good start and tailed away. It’s great for the city and women’s football. The level is improving all the time.

“Our recent form and the points accumulated have put us into a good position. We understand the importance of this game. It will always be an important game no matter the situation, but certainly where the points are and what we need to achieve it’s an important game for us for sure.

City were 1-0 winners in the first WSL derby in 2019 at the Etihad thanks to Caroline Weir’s Puskas-nominated goal.

“Everyone recognizes the importance of the game, real opportunity to claw back ground and stay in the hunt. If we don’t the distance becomes a bit bigger, we’re still capable of going on a run and unbeaten until the end of the season.

“If we do that from this game onwards, I think we’ll be okay. We don’t want the gap to get bigger, especially in a 22 games season, it would be an uphill battle. Not unachievable but we recognize the importance of this game.”

So with a sell-out crowd expected at the Academy Stadium, does Taylor want to see big games like this played over the road at the Etihad, or the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in the future?

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He said: “Maybe for them with Old Trafford, but our home is the CFA stadium, that’s our real home.

“It’s a perfectly good stadium for us to use. Very modern in its design, a great reduced-sized theater to operate in. The only reasons for moving it for the Etihad would be fans support and demand. We’ve seen it happen and there be high numbers there, but for us we’re talking about keeping things normal, keeping things to the way we operate.

“We’re more than happy it’s in our stadium this weekend and we’re looking forward to that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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