Welcome to the December issue
of the City Magazine..
There's a festive theme running throughout this issue - as you'd expect, right?
Our cover star is City and Lionesses legend Steph Houghton who talks about the small matter of the Etihad Manchester derby and the history of the fixture.
We also have England keeper Sandy MacIver, who talks about her return to City and the differences that have taken place during her six years away.
Andy Morrison predicts the scores of the games that City have scheduled post-World Cup, with a 4-2 scoreline predicted at a game on the road – but which one?
Cover Story takes you behind the scenes at a memorable City Mag photo shoot from the past – and this month’s tale is a definite festive favourite.
The List keeps that Christmas theme going with a selection of favourite Boxing Day features, while our Best XI is made up of players who have signed during the January transfer window.
And if it’s Academy and EDS talent you want to learn more of, this is the place to do it with interviews with Will Dickson and U18s prospect Justin Oboavwoduo, plus stunning photo galleries with Carlos Borges and Rico Lewis.
All that plus darts star Alan ‘Chuck’ Norris, columnists Kev Cummins and Marc Riley and a Fantasy Premier League overview of the season so far.
Plenty to get your teeth into!
Three points in the Manchester derby would certainly represent a welcome early Christmas present for Steph Houghton and her City team-mates.
Gareth Taylor’s side welcome United to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday 11 December, with kick-off scheduled for 12:30 (UK).
And with a record crowd expected through the turnstiles for a City game in the WSL – it promises to be an historic occasion between two of the Barclays Women’s Super League’s in-form sides.
Houghton – City’s talismanic captain and figurehead – has been here before. She captained the side to victory in our only other competitive fixture at the Etihad and knows what it takes to come out on top in such a pressurised situation.
But while the festive period is normally a time for giving, City know that victory won’t come easy…
“I feel a bit embarrassed looking at my own pictures,” Steph Houghton laughs as she picks up a photo of herself celebrating at full time.
“That feeling at the final whistle, to be able to lead the team to a victory at the Etihad in front of that many fans was unbelievable.”
The defender, along with several of her team-mates, was looking back at a selection of iconic photos captured from previous Manchester derbies, including the first professional fixture between the two sides back in September 2019.
It’s a commonly used phrase that form goes out of the window when two rivals lock horns, but City’s recent record against United certainly bodes well.
Since that initial showdown in 2019, the blue half of Manchester has remained unbeaten in the WSL and still boast a 100% home record in the fixture.
There have been some iconic moments during that time which Houghton has witnessed and been a part of – from Ellen White’s poacher’s finish in the FA Cup through to Caroline Weir’s annual heroics.
But times change, and a new crop of stars now have their sights set on making a name for themselves as City prepare to once again step out onto the Etihad pitch.
Houghton, a founding member of our first professional side, is one of just four members of the current squad (alongside Ellie Roebuck, Demi Stokes and Laura Coombs) who has experienced that sensation before.
More than 31,000 supporters – our highest women’s attendance to date - packed into the ground to witness Nick Cushing’s side take on newly-promoted United back in 2019.
It’s a match which stirs up fond memories to this day for the City skipper – as exemplified by the mixture of ecstasy and relief etched on her face when the final whistle sounded on that September afternoon.
“I remember it like yesterday, I was stood right behind it, it was a really impressive strike,” Houghton reflects on Weir’s decisive strike.
“Everyone talks about the day, but it was all about the build-up, how hard we worked in the week to get that performance and that win.
“Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to go, we were under pressure at some points but that relief at the final whistle and to come away with three points and produce on the first game of the season was unbelievable.
“I think for us we obviously knew there were a lot of tickets sold. We all went over to the stadium a couple of days before to get some familiarity with where we’d be on matchday. You then as a player start thinking about what will happen.
“But then that moment when you’re warming up and the crowd are cheering you and shouting your name, and then the moment when Caroline Weir scored, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a noise like it.”
"The lads are away at the World Cup so it’s the perfect opportunity for City fans to come and help us try and get a victory against United."
Fast forward to 2022 and City are once again preparing to welcome United to the Etihad Stadium, with a record crowd expected.
The stage is set for a captivating encounter and Houghton insists that, while she and her team-mates are aware of the responsibility placed on their shoulders, they are still relishing every minute of it.
She adds: “It means absolutely everything. I think from the moment I joined this Club, but even previously, you know that a Manchester Derby means absolutely everything to the fans.
“But for us as player to pull on the shirt and hopefully make Manchester blue, it’s not just about the game itself, it’s the bragging rights after and just that pride of playing for Manchester and this football club.
“We know it’s going to be an absolutely massive game, the last time we played at the Etihad it was such an amazing occasion.
“It’s only good when you do win so for us as players it’s about taking the atmosphere in and knowing that there’s going to be a lot more City fans than there is United.
“Hopefully we put on a great performance and get those three points that we need. Ultimately, we hope Manchester will be blue.
“With the success of the Women’s Euros this summer, the way we’ve stayed to play and what we’ve shown what we can do, there’s no excuses not to come and watch us.
“The lads are away at the World Cup so it’s the perfect opportunity for City fans to come and help us try and get a victory against United, which will be really tough.
“We need all the support we can get. It should hopefully be a great occasion!”
"The fans have come to watch us play, they're there with us and want us to succeed so have that confidence and be positive."
City enter our latest encounter against United with a new complexion. Several established members of the squad moved on to pastures new this summer, while seven new faces through the door in return.
Each of those fresh recruits have played their part in an impressive start to the campaign, but a first battle with our rivals in front of a bumper crowd offers a new proposition for them to tackle.
While the joy of coming out on top in a local derby is unparalleled, the opposite also rings true if fate doesn’t fall kindly.
Every kick, every tackle, every shot is scrutinised – placing a huge weight of expectation on a players’ shoulders, regardless of their experience or stature.
But the captain’s message to those yet to sample the spice of a derby is simple: embrace that pressure.
Houghton explains: “I think when you play in those games it’s about making the most of it. It’s going to be a great occasion, it’s been a long time coming since we played at the Etihad so it’s just about going and enjoying it.
“I always turn it into a positive, the fans have come to watch us play, they're there with us and want us to succeed so have that confidence and be positive.
“You also have another 22 girls that have your back and want you to win.
“It’s up to us experienced players to be able to share that because I know when I was younger and we played at Wembley for example, of course you’re nervous but nerves are good, that means you care and you want to be successful.
“The most important thing is to go and enjoy it. We’re so lucky to be in this job and to play for a club like this, so let’s just go and enjoy every single minute.”
CITY V UNITED: ETIHAD DERBY
City welcome Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday 11 December.
Kick-off is scheduled for 12:30 (UK), with tickets selling fast for only our third-ever women's match at the Etihad.
We hosted Everton there back in May 2014, before welcoming our local rivals in September 2019, when Caroline Weir’s wonder strike saw us run out 1-0 winners in front of what was then a WSL record crowd, and what remains a club record of 31,213 fans.
With almost 40,000 tickets already sold, it promises to be another historic occasion.
You can secure your tickets online by visiting: www.mancity.com/tickets/womens or by calling:
+44 (0)161 444 1894.
Former skipper, Sri Lanka national coach and Matchday Live pundit Andy Morrison predicts the outcomes of December’s games…
What a way to come back from the World Cup – Liverpool at home. It’s impossible to predict how either side will line-up, but we might see a lot of youngsters on show. It will be entertaining, fast and a great way to get back to business – but I think we’ll edge it with home. advantage.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 2-0 Liverpool
Elland Road just after Christmas is going to be bouncing and that makes this a difficult game. Leeds play with a lot of energy and there are always plenty of goals when they play. They won’t shut up shop and will go for it – that's how they play - and that will leave gaps to exploit, which I fully expect us to do.
Mozzer’s prediction: Leeds 2-4 City
I don’t see anything but a comfortable home win, here. I’ve not been impressed with Everton and I’m not sure they have an identity of one thing or the other at the moment. Because of that, I think it will be three points without too much anxiety and a great way to end 2022.
Mozzer’s prediction: City 4-1 Everton
Chelsea showed they could cause us problems in the Carabao Cup tie when Stefan Ortega Moreno was superb for us. Stamford Bridge is always a tough place to go, and they are focusing – I believe – on a top four finish, so if we travel back home with a point, it won’t be a terrible result.
Mozzer’s prediction: Chelsea 1-1 City
Chelsea again! I think we’ll see two very different starting XIs from a few days before, but I think that, no matter who Pep brings in, we play the same way with same intensity. Chelsea will give it a go, but Pep will be keen to get his team in a winning pattern as we go into a crowded January and February and that’s why I’m going for City a win by two goals.
Mozzer’s prediction: 3-1
Here’s how Andy did in October
Andy got two results out of four right, but no correct scores.
So far, he has predicted 15 results out of 20 correctly, and got one scoreline correct.
City fans will have to watch on as 14 of the 20 Premier League sides return to action the day after Christmas this year, with our game at Leeds United now set for 28 December.
The 2022 World Cup is denying us of most of our package of domestic Christmas football but there will be plenty to feast upon when we are back.
Once the turkey is polished off and the presents are unwrapped, Boxing Day football has long provided a respite for revellers looking to blow off the cobwebs and get out in the fresh air.
For this month’s List, we’re looking back at the five most unforgettable home Boxing Day matches since 2000.
City 6-3 Leicester City, 2021
There have never been more than nine goals in a Premier League match involving City. Prior to 26 December last year, there had been three that fit that bill – two of them City victories and one defeat.
Pep Guardiola’s side raced into a 4-0 lead inside half an hour against Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester last year through goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, with penalties from Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling.
However, the Foxes shot out of the blocks in the second half and dragged it back to 4-3 by the 65th minute.
An Aymeric Laporte goal a few minutes following Leicester’s third stemmed the flow before Sterling added his second of the day to complete a game that shot straight to the top of Match of the Day’s running order.
City 4-1 Sunderland, 2015
Manuel Pellegrini’s City needed to get back on track after defeat to title rivals Arsenal a few days earlier and did so with plenty of goals.
It was largely inspired by Kevin De Bruyne, who was adjusting excellently to his first season with the Club. His cross set up Raheem Sterling for the first before Yaya Toure added a second.
Wilfried Bony turned home an exquisite De Bruyne cross for the third before the Belgian finally got a goal of his own. Fabio Borini grabbed a consolation late on, but it was a day that belonged to De Bruyne. As many, many more Etihad Stadium days since have.
City 2-1 Liverpool, 2013
Three points separated the top four at this point in the season and it would remain tight for the entire campaign, in which City eventually triumphed.
This Boxing Day victory was a crucial milestone, as City and Liverpool became the two main competitors for the title.
It started badly when Phillippe Coutinho opened the scoring for the visitors but captain fantastic Vincent Kompany powered in a header to equalise a few minutes later.
The scoring was completed in first half stoppage time through Alvaro Negredo, who had enjoyed a prolific start to life in Manchester.
A nervy second half followed with further chances for both sides, but in the end it was a win that kickstarted a magnificent second half to our season.
City 5-1 Hull City, 2008
A match iconic for the events of half-time just as much as those during play. City were 4-0 up at the break when furious Hull boss Phil Brown elected to give his team talk on the pitch.
He spent three minutes with his players, in front of the fans who had travelled from east Yorkshire, wagging his finger at various individuals.
In a way, it may have inspired his side who managed a 1-1 draw in the second 45 minutes.
That gave Mark Hughes’ struggling Blues a much-needed lift on the way to a mid-table finish in the 2008/09 campaign.
City 3-1 Aston Villa, 2002
The final Boxing Day at Maine Road was a day that added to the cult hero status of both Marc Vivien Foe and Ali Benarbia.
Foe scored the opener and City were well on top until Dion Dublin equalised shortly before half-time.
Benarbia’s introduction just after the hour mark turned the match back in the favour of Kevin Keegan’s side. First he headed City into the lead before a through ball gave Foe his second of the day.
In a season where every match felt like a farewell, City fans were determined to make the most of what little time they had left in our home of 80 years.
After two seasons between the sticks at Everton, Sandy MacIver decided it was time for a new challenge this summer.
But to realise that ambition, she went back to familiar surroundings.
Spending a year in the Manchester City youth set-up from 2015, the youngster left the Academy Stadium in pursuit of a soccer scholarship at South Carolina outfit Clemson Tigers.
It’s a three-and-a-half-year period which she credited as a huge influence on the player she is today when joining Gareth Taylor’s side in July of this year, and those foundations were built on when moving to Merseyside in January 2020.
Becoming a regular for the Toffees and gaining a first senior international cap during her time at Walton Hall Park, MacIver returned to the City Football Academy after a six-year hiatus with a wealth of experience despite still being just 24.
“The size of the women’s setu-p,” was the goalkeeper’s instant answer when asked about the differences between Club she left in 2016 and the one she joined ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
“All of the support staff has grown, which only benefits us as a team.
“It’s more behind the scenes as well as the quality on the pitch that I think has grown which I’ve really noticed.”
"I feel like, already, the quality of training is helping me do that. I think if you want to be the best in whatever you do, nobody gets there by taking the easy route."
However, getting regular minutes in Gareth Taylor’s side was far from a foregone conclusion.
MacIver joined a squad which had seen fellow England international Ellie Roebuck – still just 23 herself – cement herself as first choice goalkeeper in recent seasons.
And with 18-year-old starlet Khiara Keating also vying for senior appearances after impressing during an unprecedented injury crisis at the turn of the year, our new recruit was under no illusions that she needed to put in the hard yards to earn her keep.
Nonetheless, rather than seeing that prospect as an inconvenience, Sandy has regularly stressed that the competition between herself, Roebuck and Keating has consistently brought the best out of each of them.
Indeed, despite all that she has already achieved during her nascent professional career, the key message which is consistently conveyed when talking to MacIver is that she came to City with a central focus: development.
“One of the big reasons I moved to City in the summer was to take my game to that next level,” she explains.
“I feel like, already, the quality of training is helping me do that. I think if you want to be the best in whatever you do, nobody gets there by taking the easy route.
“Competing alongside someone like Ellie as well as Khiara is going to help me do that. That competition is something I will really benefit from this season.
“From a goalkeeping point of view, it’s always nice to get a different person and coach’s perspective.
“Coaches I’ve had in the past, who I’ve really enjoyed working with, might see me from one angle but someone else might pick up something technical.
“It’s those small details [which can make the difference]. Chris [goalkeeping coach Chris Williams] has helped me with that, he’s adjusted a few things technically, but the biggest thing for me is adapting to the City style of play.
“Just like the men’s team, we like to keep the ball and play out from the back.
“That’s something I’ve been trying to develop in the past few months, and you can see the quality on the pitch and in training, that helps me do that.”
Those improvements which MacIver mentions have also been noticed by City boss Gareth Taylor, who handed the goalkeeper her first appearance for the Club in our 6-0 Continental Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers.
A Barclays Women’s Super League debut followed soon after in a 3-0 win at Reading, before the England international was once again between the sticks in a hard-fought triumph against her former employers, Everton.
It’s a chance which MacIver has grasped with both hands, and one that she certainly isn’t taking for granted.
She reflects: “I didn’t expect to get game time so early on but however it comes, it’s an opportunity.
“In the last couple of weeks, to get my league debut and play against my old team, it’s been a bit crazy.
“But I’m just enjoying any minutes I get on the pitch.”
"I know the girls are really looking forward to the Etihad derby. You always want to get one up over your rivals."
City have hit our stride in recent months, exemplified by an impressive winning run which has covered the entirety of October and November.
But with an historic derby at the Etihad Stadium looming, another three points against Manchester United would certainly send a daunting message to the rest of the WSL.
While the season is still in its relative infancy, both sides find themselves in the thick of the action at the top of the table.
At the time of writing, they are separated by just three points and, with a record crowd for a City Women’s match expected, it promises to be an unforgettable occasion when they do battle on Sunday 11 December.
It’s significance, both in terms of the occasion and the potential outcome, hasn’t been lost on MacIver.
“It’s a first Manchester derby for me, at the Etihad as well,” she explained.
“I know the girls are really looking forward to it. You always want to get one up over your rivals don’t you, so I’m excited.
“[The result could be] so important. You see the league as it stands, I think there’s only three points between us and the top.
“That gap between four teams just shows how competitive the league is now.
“Three points for us is going to be vital in terms of getting Champions League but also in pushing for the title as well.”
CITY V UNITED: GET YOUR TICKETS!
You can secure your tickets online by visiting: www.mancity.com/tickets/womens
or by calling: +44 (0)161 444 1894.
Imagine the logistics of getting two of Radio 1’s top DJs and a first team player together in the centre of Manchester, then getting them to all dress up in festive fancy dress – and then getting a worthwhile photo of all three?
Those are the lengths we went to in order to secure the Christmas cover for the December 2003 City Magazine.
Lifelong Blues Marc Riley (a long-time City Magazine columnist) and Mark Radcliffe were at the peak of their powers on the early afternoon Radio 1 slot where they were better known as Mark & Lard.
We asked City defender Danny Tiatto if he was up for the gig and, thankfully, he was – he would take the role of a blue Santa Claus (of course).
All we had to do next was get a date that suited all parties, organise the costumes and get a suitable venue – all in mid-November due to print deadlines.
The passage of time means recalling exactly where the location was, has sadly been lost in the ether, but it was very likely to have been at the BBC studios on Oxford Road in the centre of Manchester.
Aussie firebrand Tiatto was fantastic and a great sport.
He arrived on time and as a listener of the show, he was delighted to meet Mark and Marc.
What happened next was hilarious as the festive trio tried their elf and Santa costumes on with varying degrees of success.
All three were reduced to tears as our intrepid DJs went the whole hog, complete with red tights, tunics, and hats with elf ears, becoming their characters to great effect.
The end result is the cover you can see below.
It went down a storm with City Mag readers and the festive cover became an annual magazine event, with various illustrations and photo shoots over time.
At City Mag HQ, it really was the most wonderful time of the year…
Erling Haaland is currently FPL’s highest scoring player, and therefore top of the tree among his City teammates during the World Cup break.
The Norwegian ace has tallied 123 points so far this term thanks to his return of 18 goals and three assists in the league since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.
Hot on his heels is the instrumental Kevin De Bruyne, who has asserted himself as one of the finest midfield options in FPL again this season.
In total, the Belgium international has racked up 90 points, with his performance in our 4-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth representing his best return of 14 due to his goal and assist against the Cherries.
Phil Foden and Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva make up our top five with 76, 70 and 64 points respectively.
Team of the Season
Unsurprisingly, Haaland and De Bruyne have been named in the FPL Team of the Season so far – an XI comprised of the highest scoring players this term and analysed by the Premier League scout.
The latter sits in a midfield four alongside Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron (94), Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (82) and Brighton’s Leandro Trossard (80).
His tally of 10 assists is already two higher than his total of eight from last season, and he leads the pack in terms of key passes (45) and big chances created (15).
Often captained by millions of FPL managers, Haaland leads the line with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Brentford’s Ivan Toney.
And with unlimited transfers available for players during the World Cup, his percentage owned of 82 percent may rise further.
Ederson sits comfortably in the top 10 of highest scoring goalkeepers at the time of writing and sits only 13 points behind current leader Nick Pope.
The Brazil international has gained 57 points this term and is one of three ‘keepers in the top 10 to register an assist in the league this season.
His accurate ball for Haaland’s opener in City’s 3-1 success over Brighton allowed us to unlock a tight Seagulls defence and drive towards three points.
Bonus points are awarded to the three best performing players in each match, with three to the highest, two to second best and one to the third.
Haaland’s sensational start to life in England has seen him gain 19 bonus points, which is only bettered by Kane’s tally of 21.
De Bruyne sits fifth in the bonus points chart behind Kieran Trippier and Ivan Toney with 13, while Cancelo (10), Bernardo (six) and Foden (six) make up the Club’s top five.
As previously mentioned, Haaland is selected in a staggering 82 percent of all FPL teams, making him City’s highest and the most chosen player in the game during the World Cup break.
Joao Cancelo is second highest among our players to be selected by fantasy managers with a percentage of 53.9.
The dynamic fullback has played in every league game under Pep Guardiola this season, with his highest grossing FPL match coming in the 4-0 success over Southampton where he scored and assisted.
De Bruyne (37.8 percent), Foden (21.4) and Bernardo (8.2) complete City’s top five in this department.
Each month we take a look at a memorable City goal, as recalled by the scorer.
Former skipper Andy Morrison scored a few meaty headers for City during his time with the Club, but his goal away to Oldham Athletic in November 1998 was off the charts.
Already leading 2-0 at Boundary Park, a poor clearance by the Latics found Morrison 30 yards out from goal.
He headed towards the edge of the box where Shaun Goater stretched his neck muscles to nod it back to the advancing ‘Mozzer’ who volleyed on the full into the top right-hand corner with ferocious power.
It was a stunning goal that wrapped up a 3-0 Greater Manchester derby win.
So, Andy… take us through it.
“I was still early in my City career when we played this.
“I remember there were City fans all over Boundary Park and, with local pride at stake, we needed to make sure we won it.
“We scored twice in the first half and were bossing it, so when Goat headed into my path, I just thought ‘why not’ and leathered it into the roof of the net.
“Was it the most important City goal I scored? No. Was it the best goal I scored in my career? Yes!
“I think that goal surprised a few people, because I was a committed centre-half and people assume you can only head it or tackle.
“That’s why I enjoyed that goal so much!”
It’s January transfer window time again at the end of the month – so what better time to create a January Transfer Window Best XI?
The window as we know it was launched in the 2002/03 season, so this will be the 20th anniversary of the period that managers love and hate in equal measure.
Here is a Best XI plus subs – what do you reckon?
Manager: Patrick Vieira
Keeper: Shay Given
The Republic of Ireland goalkeeper joined City from Newcastle United to challenge Joe Hart in 2009 and proved an astute signing by Mark Hughes. Shay gets the nod over David James and Gavin Bazunu.
Right-back: Michael Ball
With only two left-backs to choose from, Michael Ball gets the short straw and would have to be a left-footed right-back in this team. He joined City from PSV in 2007.
Left-back: Wayne Bridge
Bridge was more reliant on his left side than Ball, so Bridge gets the nod in his usual role. Another Hughes signing he arrived from Chelsea in 2009.
Central defender: Patrick Vieira
Another makeshift defender, World Cup winner Vieira’s height means he will slip into a very left-footed back-line. Vieira was a smart signing by Roberto Mancini in January 2010 on a free transfer from Inter Milan. As he is now the Palace boss, he is our player-manager in this team.
Central defender: Aymeric Laporte
Yet more left-footedness! Our excellent Spain international signed for City from Athletic Bilboa in 2018 and has been a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s side ever since.
Midfielder: Jack Harrison
Yep, another lefty! Jack Harrison joined City from New York City in 2018 and was duly loaned out until eventually signing for Leeds United permanently in 2021. More of a winger than a full-back, he’d have to tuck in for this XI as we are short of midfield signings in January!
Midfielder: Nigel De Jong
A genuine midfield acquisition in January, NDJ is also one of our best. The Dutch Enforcer would be busy in this team and would need the wingers to work back and help when defending. Or they might face the consequences!
Left wing: Gabriel Jesus
The hard-working Brazilian played on the left flank a number of times for City and that’s where he is in this team. He would definitely put a shift in back in midfield when needed, too.
Right-wing: Craig Bellamy
Welsh winger/forward Craig Bellamy joined from West Ham in 2009 and though often employed on the left, he was right-footed and would need to play on his natural side in this team of (mostly) left-footers!
Striker: Edin Dzeko
Edin Dzeko was a January signing from Wolfsburg in 2011 and was an instant hit with City fans. The Bosnian Diamond would lead the line in this January team. Goals guaranteed!
Striker: Julian Alvarez
City announced Julian Alvarez’s signing in January 2021 from River Plate and he was loaned back to the Argentine giants straight away. Alvarez would play off Dzeko in an attack full of goals and energy.
Caicedo, Bony, Bazunu, Benjani, Mpenza, Samaras, James