City travel to United for the first meeting of the FA Women’s Super League season, looking to bounce back from a disappointing run of form and retain the local bragging rights.
With just two wins from our opening seven games and hindered by an injury crisis, City have endured a difficult start to the 2021/22 campaign and sit six points behind the Reds in the table.
Eight players are currently sidelined – the most recent casualty Champions League winner Vicky Losada – but Taylor asserts the rest of the squad have come through this past week unscathed, adding Ruby Mace is in contention for her first minutes, while Alanna Kennedy could also be reinstated at centre-back with midfielder Jill Scott having deputised in recent games.
“Apart from Keira, who’s getting a few more minutes under her belt, I don’t think the situation has changed,” he said.
“Vicky is progressing on and for the rest, it’s a few more days under their belt in terms of their rehab – but in terms of options, it’s the same as the previous game [against West Ham].
“We’ll have potentially, four or five on the bench. We’ve not been able to fill the bench so far this season due to the obvious reasons. Five is good for us because everyone has a chance to get on and it gives us maximum options. We won’t be too far away from that number.
“We’ll see [about Ruby]. She’s certainly in contention and has been for every game. It’s a shame she couldn’t play against Leicester [in the Women’s FA Cup] but there’s a chance to use her in the Continental Cup.
“We want to do right by Ruby and be in the right conditions to get her first game. We have to look at the magnitude of the game. She’s settling nicely and improving a lot.
“Alanna was unavailable for the Leicester game due to being cup-tied but similar to Ruby, she's available tomorrow.
“Using Jill in that situation, it’s not her favoured position but she’s brought a lot in her leadership. She makes a difference for us in these difficult moments. We’ll check on that situation tomorrow.
“We've had this situation this season and last - maybe not to this extent but it’s not alien to us and we’re looking to get experience and characters on the pitch and good players.
“We have that - it’s just about finding the right formula. We’ve shown good glimpses, created lots of opportunities. It’s just a few inconsistencies in taking the chances.
“I know what these players can achieve, even with the players we have missing. I still feel we’ve been unfortunate with the results going against us but this is why we love the game – it’s not always champagne football, it’s a fight against every team.
“We’re suffering with our injury count and really looking forward to getting players back but in the meantime, we keep going and fighting.”
With more than just three points riding on the game, Taylor believes the clash provides the 'perfect' fixture for City to reignite our campaign.
The Head Coach added the squad are in positive spirits heading into the clash and are fired up and ready to fight.
“It’s the perfect game to come back to tomorrow and one the players are really looking forward to,” he continued.
“With Derbies, coaches always say they don’t have to get the players up for it. It’d be perfect for us if we get three points on the board. We want to achieve that.
“We did that on our own turf last year. We were in control and give credit to United – they fought back – but we showed our dominance.
“These games are never won or lost in the first half – you have to be at it all the way through to the final minute. That’s what makes these games so special.
“It’ll be even more special with supporters back. The players look forward to these games – both teams want to win and are competitive. It’s an exciting one for us to look forward to.
“We are looking to springboard to a good run but we can’t look beyond this game. We need to put all of our effort and endeavour into it; then we have one more game in another competition before the international break.
“We have to focus on this one, really make sure we pay attention to the small details and handle the game in the right manner.
“There’ll be a lot of nerves and emotion around it, which is normal and natural in a Derby. We have to control that, and make sure we’re in the game and look to impose ourselves on the opposition.
“Morale has been pretty good. You'd expect it to be a bit low, and confidence too, but the players have been really good.
“The staff have supported them well and we’ve had good conversations about where we can improve, while also thinking about the good things.
“We’ve had a lot thrown at us but the players have been really positive and sharp in training. That’s all you can ask for.”