First WSL Manchester derby at Old Trafford is must-win for both sides

Historic Manchester derby set for record attendance as United host an out-of-sorts City side… but there is a feeling this huge game should have been played at Old Trafford long before now

  • United have sold 41,000 tickets for Sunday’s landmark home clash in the WSL
  • Marc Skinner urged his side to capitalise on the momentum and grow interest
  • England will struggle to win a trophy with Kalvin Phillips – It’s All Kicking Off 

The first Manchester derby at Old Trafford has been a long time coming for both of the city’s women’s teams.

While the fixture itself will be a historic occasion, it comes at a pivotal point in the season for both clubs.

For City, this is a game they cannot afford to lose. Gareth Taylor’s side have lost back-to-back fixtures against Arsenal and Brighton and are already six points behind leaders Chelsea. No team has ever lost more than two matches and still gone on to win the WSL.

Taylor admitted his side now must go unbeaten to be in with a chance.

‘Of course, to be in with a shout, absolutely,’ Taylor said. ‘Remaining unbeaten now is the objective for the rest of the season and it always has been. That’s what I want to see from the players. I’ve seen the whites of their eyes that they’re ready for this game and that they are ready to do the business this weekend.’

Gareth Taylor is all to aware that Manchester City must see out the season unbeaten to be in with a shot at WSL glory

The team were unlucky to suffer recent back-to-back defeats against Brighton and Arsenal

Six points off the league leaders Chelsea, City go into the derby aware the tie is a must-win

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Taylor perhaps added extra and unnecessary pressure on his shoulders with his comments about Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall after his side’s 2-1 defeat. Taylor accused his opposite number of ‘bullying’ the fourth official, comments which Eidevall claimed bordered on ‘slander’.

It created a storm that Taylor and City could have done without. But City’s biggest problem has been their failure to convert chances – an issue that has persisted from last season. Taylor’s side had 35 shots against Brighton, with 13 on target – but most of these were straight down the throat of goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley. City should have beaten Brighton and they should probably have beaten Arsenal. They cannot afford to be as wasteful against United.

The Red Devils have had no such problems with converting chances recently, with 19 goals in their last four games. But Marc Skinner’s side have looked slightly more vulnerable in defence than they did last season. United only conceded 12 goals in 22 games across the 2022-2023 campaign but have already leaked six in six this term.

City have struggled against teams that sit back and play on the counter but Skinner insisted that is not the approach his side will take on Sunday.

‘I don’t know if a smash and grab would work on Sunday,’ Skinner said. ‘I don’t think that’s our style but there’s going to be moments where both teams will block and counter. I don’t think we can play that way but there will be moments of the game that have to look like that.

‘I think you have to attack Manchester City, I think you have to make them defend. It’s an important marker at Old Trafford to win a derby but to do that we’ve got to perform.’

There is a feeling that this fixture could have been played at Old Trafford long before now, with United choosing to play other opponents like Everton and West Ham instead of their Manchester rivals in the last two years.

Part of that decision was perhaps the desire to play teams they were more confident of beating but also ensuring that when they did host City, they were in a position to maximise their attendance. With a record 41,000 tickets sold for Sunday’s game, Skinner believes the decision to wait has paid off.

Man United have been clincal in front of goal this season but are sloppier defending their own

Marc Skinner is keen to give the fans a show at the Red Devils’ first ever derby at Old Trafford

‘We do live in a fast-food culture, we want everything now as humans. Actually, sometimes waiting for it is the best thing. We’ve got to put a performance on that’s worth waiting for, we know that.

‘We have to keep growing that, I want to sell out Old Trafford on a consistent basis, I want to be able to do that because our fans love the product that we put on the field.

‘That is gonna be an aspiration of mine as well as winning things for the club but actually growing the fan base and growing the love for this team is something we need to continue to do

‘It’s that continuous growth that we need to see. Because what I’d hate is in two years time, we go back down to 10,000. That’s where we’ve got to sustain that growth and I think we will. I’m hoping that teams are now getting to a point where everybody wants to come and watch them. I think it’s worth waiting for.’


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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