Welcome to the latest edition of our digital Women's matchday programme for Friday night's Manchester Derby!
City host Manchester United for only the second time in FA Women's Super League history, in a 19:00 (UK) kick-off at the Academy Stadium, looking to secure a crucial three points and the local bragging rights!
There's no bigger motivation needed!
As ever, Gareth Taylor and Steph Houghton share their thoughts on the clash, while we also look back on our first ever professional meeting between the sides, as Caroline Weir looks back on that remarkable match-winning strike at the Etihad Stadium!
Meanwhile, Lucy Bronze tells us how she always hoped to see the two Manchester Clubs battle it out in the women's game and we catch up with Ellie Roebuck, who penned a new three-year deal with the Club last week.
Plus, we take a closer look at our cross-town rivals, the Manchester City Women's Official Supporters Club also tell us what they've been up to and we meet our Junior Cityzen of the Match...
As always, we'd love for you to get involved and share your support ahead of the game! Did you know you can tweet your messages to the Academy Stadium big screen for the players to see by using #CityBigScreen...?
You can also check out behind-the-scenes content and amazing competitions on our @CitySquareLive social media channels! Don't miss out!
Let's turn Manchester Blue!
A WORD FROM THE BOSS...
Hello, City fans.
We have another huge game in store: a Manchester Derby on home soil at the Academy Stadium. It's a very important game - not just because it's Derby Day - but also as a potentially defining game in the FA Women's Super League title race.
Needless to say, it's one we're looking forward to. Welcome to Manchester United and their manager Casey Stoney, their players and staff.
The rivalry is always there, isn't it? Whether it is United v City in a game of football or other platforms. Everybody wants to be successful. We want the city to be blue after this occasion. Bragging rights go hand-in-hand with that. These are good games to be involved in and we understand the importance of this one, although it's difficult to say how important title focus will be.
We'd spoken before the Arsenal game that this was a big week with two pivotal games. That's not changed but I think that regardless of the result on Friday, both teams will still be in the title race.
The feeling in the squad is good. We've had a good start to the year and we have good confidence. I think our upturn in form is down to familiarity - we have put in a lot of hard work. We've had good moments and bad moments but there has been a lot of work put in behind-the-scenes to reach this point. Now, the players are looking sharp and we're looking to finish off on a good note before the international break.
I was really pleased with last weekend's win at Arsenal. That's never an easy place to go - Joe Montemurro is a good manager and they have some very good players - and the last few games had all ended 2-1 so it's always tight. It was a big win and the players battled, showing real resilience - and in difficult conditions. The work ethic, especially after Arsenal equalised, was top class.
Although we always keep focus on ourselves, it turned out to be a positive day for us with results elsewhere and we'll take that. I am never really shocked in football - these things can happen - but the only thing we could control was that we had to perform at Arsenal and we did. We just need to focus on putting as many points on the board as possible. Outside of that, teams will be consistent and inconsistent.
It was a special day too for Ellen White. Congratulations to her on her achievement of becoming the division's all-time leading goalscorer. First and foremost, Ellen is a good player but she's also a really good person to work with. She has a great work ethic and she made it difficult for Arsenal in their build-up play. She's always scored goals and hopefully, she's enjoying the attacking play we're providing for her - it's top drawer.
We've had more positive news too with Ellie Roebuck signing a new contract. We are really pleased to secure Ellie's future with us and look forward to seeing her add to the continued success she has had so far in the years to come.
I've been really impressed with the squad in recent weeks. Players are really standing up to be counted and delivering with performances. We have some really good players and even those who are not starting are contributing. We are a real team here.
There are many different ways to contribute - whether that's on the pitch, at training or in the stands. The players doing well will have a good chance of playing. Everybody has done well and bought into the team ethic to make sure they are contributing.
We are enjoying being involved in the title race. It is probably going to be regarded as the biggest title race with so many teams in contention. It can be difficult to judge with some teams having played fewer games but we've said before that with the teams strengthening the way they have and with the players who are joining the WSL, the competition has become even better.
We are a good team, playing good football, scoring a lot of goals and we're keen to get another three points. At the moment, it feels like the final push, even though it is just over halfway through the season. You can see the finish line and everyone is making a charge for it.
I was fortunate to play in Derbies at various clubs and coaching-wise, you want to be involved in games with city rivals. We all know what games like this mean - to the Club, to the fans, to the city - and we're all looking forward to the challenge.
Enjoy the game.
Happy Derby Day, Blues!
A Friday night under the lights at the Academy Stadium, for a Manchester Derby no less - you just can't beat it! And there is so much riding on this game...
They don't come much bigger... Of course, every game against United is big - no matter whether that's in the league, the cup or a friendly; home or away - but we know this is an important one with where both teams are in the league and especially for the fans watching at home, we want to turn Manchester blue.
Although we've played them a few times now, this will be the first Derby to be played at the Academy Stadium and that adds even more motivation. There's more than just three points at stake and we're really excited. The mood in the camp is really good - we're focused and ready to go.
We go into the game in good form and on the back of last weekend's great win at Arsenal. We knew this week was going to be a big one for us with two games against two top teams. We were delighted to have come back from Arsenal with three points, especially having played the way we did - and in tough conditions with the weather.
I was so proud of the way the team responded to Arsenal's equaliser, especially. We were disappointed to have conceded but we didn't let our heads drop - our first thought was: 'Okay, let's go and get another one!'
That resilience is something we've been working on for the last few months and it's starting to become more natural, as we get more experienced. Although we feel we could have done better in parts, we managed the game well - Arsenal just couldn't handle our tempo - and most importantly, we got the win. At this stage of the season, that's all that matters. It was such a good performance and although we didn't know it at the time, it proved to be a big win in the title race.
To be honest, we prefer not to focus on other results - we just like to concentrate on what we're doing because that's the only thing we can influence.
It was a great result and we were really happy but as always, attention turned quickly to the next game: the Manchester Derby. It's the game everyone looks for in the calendar - it means so much to both Clubs, especially the fans, and we both desperately want those three points.
United have done really well this year and looking at their team - the players they've attracted and the manager they have - it's no surprise. They're on a similar journey to what we were on when we started out. There was always an expectation United would be in and around the top teams in the league once they got their structure right and added the right personnel. Still, we're only focused on our Club and what our players and staff can bring on the day.
United may think they hold the bragging rights from the two games in November with the way they turned out - but I'm not sure about that!
Over the course of the two games, I thought we were the better team. In the first half of the league game especially, we played so well. We went 2-0 up but we allowed them to get back into the game in the second half.
We've learned from that. That level of performance from the first 45 has to be maintained over the 90 minutes. If we do that, with the style we play, and get it right, without a doubt, we're one of the best teams in the league.
When you throw a Derby into the equation, it's about winning at all costs - winning your tackles, winning your individual battles; ultimately, winning the game... You have to do all you can to help the team. We've shown that togetherness in recent games. Let's carry it on and see where it takes us!
On a final note, I'd just like to congratulate my bestie Ellen White on becoming the WSL's all-time record goalscorer last weekend and Ellie Roebuck on her new contract! I consider both players to be close friends and I'm so happy for them.
Ellen is one of my best mates and one of the most professional and dedicated athletes I know. She's an unbelievable player and person, and I'm so proud of what she's achieved. Watch out: there'll be more goals to come!
As for Ellie, she has the world at her feet! We have some unbelievable young players at this Football Club and she is definitely one of them. She's shown she has the potential to be one of the best 'keepers in the world and she's not afraid to put the hard work in to become even better. For us to have her for the next three years is huge for everyone.
Derby Day awaits... We're all excited and ready to go. I know I won't have to say too much to the girls beforehand. We prepare the same way for every game and the girls will definitely be motivated for this one. Hopefully, we'll make it a Manchester City win!
Manchester is Blue!
Come on, City!
MY FAVOURITE GOAL
Scotland Player of the Year Caroline Weir is in Blue-hot form!
December's FA WSL Player of the Month has played a key role in City's remarkable recent run, bagging three goals in her last two games and
chipping in with some crucial assists...
Our number 19 has 19 goals to her name in sky blue -
but which one tops the lot?
Our midfield maestro reveals her all-time best City strike in My Favourite Goal, presented by Nissan - and you won't be surprised by her selection...
My favourite goal is the one against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in the first professional women’s Manchester Derby.
It’s an obvious choice but it was such a special moment – for me personally and for the team – to have scored in a Derby on such a big stage with a record-breaking crowd and amazing atmosphere.
Scoring the winning goal is one of the highlights of my career.
As the first Derby at the Etihad with such a big crowd – and with it being the first game of the season – there was so much tension, although we didn’t really realise it at the time.
It’s only after that you realise how big the crowd was.
During the week leading up to a game, you’re not focusing on the hype outside – you’re focusing on training and preparation, looking after yourself: eating, sleeping and maintaining your performance.
That’s the best way.
The first half
None of us had been enjoying the first half to be honest. We weren’t playing well – it was a typical first game of the season.
Everyone was a bit nervous and tentative and we weren’t playing how we'd hoped to play.
The turning point
There were quite a few things said at half-time because it really wasn’t good enough.
Coming out in the second half and scoring so early really settled us down. There was a feeling of relief to have finally gone ahead and we played a lot better and we were definitely the better team in the second half.
It was a game of two halves. We all really enjoyed the second half.
Sometimes, in a game, if things aren't going our way, I can feel a bit fed up so I decide to try and do something about it.
I remember picking the ball up and up until that moment, I hadn’t had a shot. In my head, I was thinking: ‘Just don’t hit it over the bar! Get over it!’
It could have gone anywhere but that’s what I remember thinking just before I hit it.
I guess a lot of it is down to instinct and practising it in training every day. I can’t describe the thought process behind how many touches I felt I needed to take or even the shot itself.
To be honest, I knew pretty much as soon as I hit it that it was going in. People always say that but I did actually feel like – the way I hit it – it was definitely on target.
Then, it was just a case of whether or not it’s saved… but I think I knew straight away it was going in.
That’s one of my favourite feelings! My celebration is a bit embarrassing to be honest – there isn’t much to it: I was just running around!
The team came running to me. There are some good pictures of us all – we’re all buzzing with it! I would have been the same whoever scored – I’d have celebrated like that.
It’s a great feeling, especially in that stadium with that atmosphere at home with all the City fans. It’s a moment you don’t forget – the feeling you train for day in, day out.
Those feelings don’t come around that often so you have to try and enjoy it while you can!
I don’t really notice things like that too much. It’s always something to work towards but I guess it is true: I scored the first goal in a professional women’s Manchester Derby.
That’s a cool thing to have. Maybe I’ll look back in a few years and think about it. Right now and at the time, I was just happy to score and start the season with three points, ready to move onto the next game.
I won’t lie: I’ve watched the goal back a few times! Although more straight after – not so much now. It feels like a long time ago and a lot had happened since then.
But it’s something to tell the grandkids about one day!
Q&A WITH → ELLIE ROEBUCK
February kicked off with a bang with the news
Ellie Roebuck has signed a new long-term deal with the Club!
The 2019/20 Golden Glove winner and FIFA 'The Best' Goalkeeper of the Year nominee, has put pen to paper on a three-year contract, having rapidly become one of the Club's brightest stars.
The Sheffield-born shot-stopper tells us why she feels City is the best Club for her development, talks us through life as a 'keeper and previews the eagerly-awaited Manchester Derby...
Ellie, congratulations on your new contract! How does it feel to have committed your future to the Club for the next three years?
I'm delighted. I'm glad to have got it sorted so I can feel where my future lies: obviously, that's going to be at City for the next three years, which is exciting. Three years is a strong commitment but it works both ways - it shows the Club have shown good faith in me, which is nice.
It's exciting times, especially as we're under a new manager now and we've signed some elite-level players: World Cup winners, Champions League winners... It shows where we want to be and where we’re going, which is massive. Those are things I want to achieve and City is the Club where I see myself developing so it was a no-brainer.
I think the next few years will fly by - the same as previous years. I'm really excited for it.
What's Gareth like to work under?
I really like him. I think he's a top guy, He's honest and he’s really demanding, which I really like. He’ll tell you when it's good, he'll also tell you when it’s bad...
I think just having that demand that you need to turn up and show up every training session is really good. His methodology is really exciting and something that I don't think many teams would be able to live with or cope with, if we get the technical level right and play the way he wants us to.
Everyone's got the trust in him and the faith that it's going to work. If we continue that for hopefully the years to come, then we'll be fine.
A lot has been said about the attacking side of City's play in the last few games but it seems his playing style - playing out from the back - suits your game perfectly...
It's a perfect fit of what he wants from a goalkeeper. I think I can really push my game by doing that and working within his style of play. Obviously, I like to play out from the back and that's no secret but I think the demand and the quality that he expects will hopefully, take my game to the next level. That's part of the reason why I've committed, and decided to stay at the Club for quite a long period of time.
I guess for a 'keeper, your best performances are on your busiest days - but at City, you can have long periods without having a save to make... And yet you still feel this is the best Club for you? That's a strong statement...
It’s something that, especially at the start, I struggled with because I'd come from pretty much being peppered every game, being at Sheffield United and being really busy… Then when you come to a Club as good as Manchester City, your game switches up a bit.
You have to be a lot more focused… you might only have one or two moments. You've got to be ready for that and that's something that I struggled with at the start because for me, I'd always been focused by saving the shots but now I have to turn that focus and just make sure I'm ready for when the moment comes.
That's something I'm learning and developing. It is hard for a goalkeeper when maybe they don't have any shots but staying in the game is obviously an important thing and then when it comes to those key moments, hopefully, I'm there and I'm ready to pull the team through.
You'll probably be a bit busier in the Manchester Derby! Does it excite you - coming up against some of the world's best attacking players?
Definitely. I wouldn't say I'm desperate for a bit of a bit of goalmouth action but either way, I'll be happy.
If I can do my job and keep a clean sheet, then so be it and if I don't have anything to do, then I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy the football that's being played in front of me... so it's always a win-win!
As a die-hard Sheffield United fan, you know all about Derby Day... What does it mean?
It's massive. I've obviously been brought up knowing what Derby Day means and as a City player who has been at this Club for a long time now, I understand what it means to this Club. It's a really special Club - one I've grown to love.
I know the importance it has for the fans and all of the girls are really excited for it. It's one you look for when the fixtures are first announced.
The first professional Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium is one of the highlights of my City career. That was just such an unbelievable occasion. For the Club in general, it was such a special day and coming out as winners made it a little bit sweeter.
I think they're the games that you always want to be a part of and want to play in. For me that was an unbelievable experience and playing in front of the fans, which is something obviously we don't get to do at the minute…. I think you look back and cherish that moment a little bit more now, which is nice and hopefully, we'll get those moments back in the pretty near future.
We'll be giving everything to get the win and hopefully, there'll be more of those celebrations on our side!
Given where both teams are in the table, I guess this game even bigger than that one...
Yeah, definitely. It's a big one in the title race but I don't think we'll feel the pressure. We'll go into it looking forward to playing a good side. They are a good side - there's no doubt about that - but we're also a very good side on our day.
We'll just focus, train hard throughout the week, listen to what Gaz has to say and the style he wants us to play and hopefully, then put that into practice as we have done in previous games.
With the way the two November Derbies unfolded, United probably think they hold the bragging rights... What have we learned from those games?
We were really disappointed with how those games went. In the league game especially, we were in full control in the first half and we should have scored more than we did. That's not being arrogant or anything - we played brilliantly in that first half.
Now we know that first of all, we have to work harder to put those chances to bed to make sure we don't get into that situation again where the pressure turns and they get themselves on top for periods of the game.
I'm not sure they have the bragging rights though! We'll see what happens when this game comes along but there's a long way to go in the season yet. All we can do is focus on ourselves.
And you'll be coming up against Ella Toone again - one of your closest friends. She's had a great season and in a good run of form but I'm sure you won't be letting that continue!
Yeah, Tooney is on fire at the moment. She's scored six goals now. I've said before: she's such a brilliant player, she's unbelievable and I rate her so highly.
I'm really happy for her as my friend but come Derby Day, that will be put on hold for the 90 minutes.
Hopefully, I'll never have a day where she scores against me! I'll be doing everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen!
BRONZE: I ALWAYS LONGED
FOR A MANCHESTER DERBY!
Lucy Bronze says she cannot wait to experience her first taste of a Manchester Derby on home soil.
The Best FIFA Women's Player of the Year re-joined City in September - a year and one day after City and United met for the very first time in professional competition in a record-breaking and unforgettable day at the Etihad Stadium.
As United launched their women's team in 2018 - promoted to the top flight the following year - Bronze did not have the chance to face the Reds in her first spell in sky blue before she left to join Champions League winners, Lyon.
Watching that historic first clash from afar, the right-back admits to feeling a pang of jealousy, having always wanted to lock horns with our cross-town rivals.
With the two sides having met twice already this season at Leigh Sports Village - within an intense matter of days in November - Bronze has gained her first experiences of a Derby, but not yet on home turf.
Readying herself for an eagerly-awaited night under the floodlights at the Academy Stadium, the three-time European Champion says she's counting down the minutes...
"When I was at City before, I was dying to play in a Manchester Derby! It's exciting that I finally get to do that.
"When I was away in France, I was so jealous, watching that first Derby at the Etihad Stadium, especially as City won!
"Seeing the girls play at the Etihad in front of that crowd and then win the game - and with that great goal from Caz Weir - was unbelievable.
"I'm excited now for my first home Derby, although of course it won't quite be the same without fans.
"It's a big game and we can't wait for it."
Now settled back in England, Bronze says she feels at home again in Manchester.
Asked of her favourite things about our beloved city, she hailed the culture and the cuisine!
"It's wet and cold... but it's fun!" she laughed.
"I really like the restaurants in particular. I'm a bit of a foodie so I love going to restaurants and coffee shops, although I don't actually drink coffee!
"It's a cool city with good people and good vibes!
"Plus, Manchester is Blue! It always has been, hasn't it?!"
Nickname: The Red Devils, the Reds
Stadium: Leigh Sports Village
Manager: Casey Stoney
Division: FA Women’s Super League (2019-present)
FA Women's Championship winners: 2018/19
7 September 2019, FA WSL: City 1-0 United (Weir)
20 October 2019, Continental Cup: United 2-0 City
25 January 2020, FA Cup: United 2-3 City (White x2, Scott)
14 November 2020, FA WSL: United 2-2 City (Kelly, Coombs)
19 November 2020, Continental Cup: United 0-0 City
(United won 4-3 on penalties)
Summer recruit Alex Greenwood spent a season with United, helping the Reds to promotion-winning success in the Championship with four goals in 18 league games.
One of the original members of City's Ladies team before we re-launched as a professional outfit, Abbie McManus' career in sky blue spanned a decade.
Representing the Ladies squad between 2009 and 2013, she joined Sheffield FC as the Club lifted the FA Women's Premier League Northern Division title.
Returning to City in 2014, she won three Continental Cups, two FA Cups and a league title. She joined childhood Club United in the summer of 2019, alongside Scotland international Jane Ross - City's top scorer in the double-winning 2016 campaign - and youngster Ella Toone.
Goalkeeper Fran Bentley played for both Clubs at youth level before making the step up to senior football with City. She too joined United in 2018 and has gained experience with loan spells at Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers.
JUNIOR CITYZEN OF THE MATCH
Hello and congratulations to our Junior Cityzen of the Match: Liam Harl.
Liam loves everything football and has played for his local teams in Norfolk as a striker since he was young. His room is decorated with City memorabilia and he even goes to bed listening to games!
He has been to the Etihad Stadium and Wembley Stadium to watch City play and did the Stadium Tour of the Etihad too, where he sat in Pep Guardiola's seat in the dugout. He's also met Moonchester and Moonbeam.
His favourite player of the women's team is Ellen White, while his favourite men's team player is Ferran Torres.
Enjoy the game, Liam!
If you want to be our next Junior Cityzen of the Match, enter now on the Cityzens platform!
Winners are announced on the big screen, feature in the programme and receive a City goodie bag, full kit, and a message from their favourite player!
It's Derby Day again!
We are sure anyone who was at that historic game against our neighbours at the Etihad Stadium at the beginning of last season remembers what a remarkable landmark day it was for the Club and indeed women's football.
It was a special day for us at MCWFC OSC too, as City invited our Committee to be guests of the Club. We received our OSC branch plaque from Managing Director Gavin Makel on the Blue Carpet in front of thousands of fans and watched the game from the sumptuous surroundings of the Tunnel Club.
It was a truly memorable day for all, capped off of course by Caroline Weir's amazing winning goal!
Of course, things are different today with our absence from games, as the pandemic continues.
We are sure that in this game more than ever it will hurt our fans to be unable to attend but we know that - like our members - we will be cheering and supporting every kick from home.
Come on, City!
Again, we would lime to sign off with a reminder to all fans that our social media remains more active than ever for all interactions. We hope to be arranging more online branch meetings and watch-alongs very soon.
Stay safe everybody.
MCWFC Official Supporters Club