The first Manchester derby of the 2022/23 Barclays Women’s Super League season is almost upon us…
City v United – one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures in the calendar – has stirred up some classic encounters in recent years.
With the two sides locking horns at the Etihad Stadium, the next chapter in the saga promises to be just as captivating.
In the build-up to Sunday 11 December’s showdown, we take a look back at some of the memorable clashes between the two sides since the initial professional derby back in September 2019.
Next up is a 3-0 triumph from our behind-closed-doors clash in February 2021, when a dominant performance was capped off by an audacious chip… sound familiar?
The first competitive meeting between City and United at the Academy Stadium offered a tantalising prospect even before a ball was kicked.
Third hosted second, as the final furlongs of the 2020/21 Barclays Women’s Super League came galloping into view.
City, with eight wins in our last nine matches in all competitions, were the form team, coming into the tie brimming with confidence following a hard-fought 2-1 win at Arsenal.
Gareth Taylor’s side became the first to beat the Gunners on their own patch in over a year thanks to Lauren Hemp’s late header in the capital.
But there was no time to bask in the glow of that triumph, with preparations turning immediately to a Friday night clash against United under the Academy Stadium lights.
It was an opportunity to not only claim local bragging rights, but also to continue the recent trajectories of both sides in the WSL.
Having been top of the table for all but one week between November and January, defeats to Chelsea and Reading had seen United drop back within touching distance of City.
Another victory for the hosts would see us leapfrog our rivals and move second in the table at a crucial juncture in the campaign.
It was a fact that certainly wasn’t lost on captain Steph Houghton ahead of the encounter: “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.
“There's more than just three points at stake and we're really excited.”
Strong words from the skipper, and they were backed up by a scintillating performance.
The manager named an unchanged side from the team who beat Arsenal the week before, meaning Ellie Roebuck – fresh from signing a new three-year deal – was shielded by a back four of Lucy Bronze, Houghton, Abby Dahlkemper and Alex Greenwood.
Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Caroline Weir – the hero from the previous home derby – made up the midfield three with Ellen White flanked by Chloe Kelly and Hemp at the sharp end.
And it was Kelly’s vicious corner into the box which led to City’s opening goal, setting the tone for a cultured display.
United failed to clear their lines from the winger’s set-piece, with the ball eventually falling to the feet of Bronze.
The full-back hit a volley on the stretch, finding the far corner of the net before wheeling away in jubilation.
City’s strong start continued when Stanway’s speculative ball into the box from the right whistled just over Mary Earps’ bar just three minutes later.
Gareth Taylor’s side had enjoyed an equally strong start to the reverse fixture in November 2020, when goals from Kelly and Laura Coombs saw us race into a two-goal lead at the break.
And we almost emulated that feat when White adjusted her body brilliantly to send an overhead kick towards goal after her initial effort was blocked by Amy Turner.
Earps was equal to the forward’s acrobatics, meaning that, for all of City’s dominance, we were forced to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.
Three months earlier, our strong start had been cancelled out by a second half comeback from the hosts, but there was no let-up from the blue half of Manchester on this occasion.
And after White once again forced Earps into a fine save down to her left soon after the restart, it was Hemp who would double our advantage.
While Kelly rightfully gains plaudits for her incredible skills on the ball, it was her intensity off it which acted as the catalyst for her fellow winger’s strike.
Pinching back possession on the right of the box, the England international’s stinging strike was palmed back toward the penalty spot and into the path of Hemp.
Although the youngster failed to make a clean contact on her volley, the ball rattled in off the United crossbar, leaving a stricken Earps rooted to the spot.
It was far from her most spectacular strike in blue, but our 500th goal would prove decisive in an encounter where City’s intensity was too much for the visitors.
That being said, Gareth Taylor’s side were thankful to our goalkeeper for an impressive save to dispel any faint hopes of an unlikely comeback.
A ball over the City defence was met by Kristen Press – one of United’s goalscorers in November’s reverse fixture – who rounded Roebuck and looked destined to feed Jessica Sigsworth for a simple tap-in.
But our stopper recovered expertly, tipping the ball behind for a corner at full stretch with the goal gaping to preserve the clean sheet.
The hosts continued to turn the screw and, with stoppage time approaching, the crowning moment of a memorable performance sparked into life.
“I said to [Caroline Weir]: ‘I only see you score 25, 30-yarders, we know you can do that but I want to see you score tap-ins!"
“But tonight, she showed that bit of quality from just inside the box and it was brilliant execution.
“The goalkeeper wasn’t that far off the line so the margins weren't great, but it’s a wonderful goal to light up a really good derby for us.”
The boss’ glowing reference on Weir’s fourth goal in her last three matches was wholly justified.
When Ella Toone’s flick fell short of Jackie Groenen, it was the Scot who picked up the loose ball on the edge of the United box.
Dragging the ball across her body and away from the Dutch international, it looked a foregone conclusion that she would put her laces through the ball in search of the top corner of Earps’ net.
But Weir had other ideas.
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Greenwood’s reaction to the goal, hand over mouth, walking away in disbelief, epitomises the quality that she and her team-mates had just witnessed.
The most audacious of chips, one that is deservedly still talked about to this day and even earned recognition with a nomination for the 2021 Puskas award.
"It's one of my goals of the season, full stop,” Nedum Onuoha declared on Matchday Live ahead of City’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
“Most people aren't thinking about chipping it from there!
“Most people can't chip it like that at all!"
That goal set the seal on what remains the biggest winning margin in Women’s derby history – as City moved to within two points of the WSL summit.
While Taylor insisted there was still a long way to go in terms of our league ambitions, he admitted that the manner of the victory was a particularly sweet sensation.
“It's amazing, I'm not going to lie,” he beamed after the match.
“I said before these two games that they’d go a big way to deciding what’s going to happen but there’s still a lot of football to come.
“There's still more twists and turns, we need to be cautious that we’re concentrating on what we do and take it game by game.”
The 2020/21 campaign would ultimately prove to be one of fine margins for City, with Chelsea pipping us to the post on the final day of the season despite a record winning run in the WSL.
Nonetheless, our dominant derby triumph – and Weir’s astounding strike – left the supporters back home with plenty to shout about.
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 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 over 30,000 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.