Saturday's Women's Manchester Derby Should be the Best One Yet

Nov 12, 2020, 7:00 PM GMT
Jessica Sigsworth, Demi Stokes
Manchester United versus Manchester City on Saturday is a mouthwatering prospect | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

As a club, Manchester United are not accustomed to being considered underdogs.

This is especially true in the Manchester derby, a fixture that United have largely dominated for much of their history before City's 2008 takeover complicated the narrative somewhat.

WSL 1: Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies
Manchester City had been crowned champions of England before Manchester United existed | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But in the women's game, the landscape has traditionally been a little bit different.

United only formed in 2018 - rivals City had already won four major trophies by this point.

The Red Devils have entered each Manchester derby to date as underdogs, narrowly losing to their rivals in the 2019/20 WSL and FA Cup and beating 10-player City in the Continental Cup.

When the two meet on Saturday for the opening fixture of Women's Football Weekend, it will be the closest the pair have ever been in terms of quality. Is there even an underdog anymore?

Ellen White
City won 3-2 when the two teams last met in the FA Cup | Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

Saturday's fixture will see one of the strongest squads in the league take on the most in form team in the top flight.

City's squad is the envy of most of the WSL, with two top class players per position. They only lost out on the league title by the virtue of points per game last season - and have since added World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, the world's best right back Lucy Bronze and fellow Champions League winner Alex Greenwood. Youngsters Esme Morgan and Jess Park have also come on leaps and bounds.

But City are still not quite at their devastating best. They turned in a complete performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi finals in a slick, crisp, polished display, but have struggled to routinely hit these heights.

There have been frustrating draws against Reading and Brighton and a disappointing defeat to Chelsea. Mewis has been outstanding while Lavelle is still finding her feet. We're still waiting for everything to perfectly slot into place for Gareth Taylor's side.

Ella Toone
United's substitutions tipped the momentum during their 1-0 win over Arsenal | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

United meanwhile do not quite have the depth of squad to rival City. They are working on it though, with Casey Stoney having the luxury to introduce the quality of Katie Zelem, Lauren James, Jess Sigsworth and Lucy Staniforth from the bench to great effect against Arsenal.

And while everything may not have clicked yet for their rivals, this has not been an issue for the Red Devils. They have been a well oiled machine ever since Stoney assembled her side back in 2018. Last season, they boasted the third best defensive record in the division, and they have added a sprinkling of attacking sparkle this time around.

Double World Cup winners Tobin Heath and Christen Press became the Red Devils' marquee summer signings - Heath and her mesmerising feet have been particularly impressive - while 21-year-old Ella Toone has blossomed into a vital part of the United midfield.

Ella Toone
Toone hit the winner against Arsenal to continue her stunning season | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

The Red Devils have already held Chelsea to a draw this season and recorded a historic victory over Arsenal. They really went for it against the Gunners, with winger Leah Galton once again starting at left back. This was a brave, attacking display from the off and United were well worth their win.

It would go down as an upset if United emerge victorious against City on Saturday. But at the moment, the Red Devils look the more complete team. Labelling them as underdogs is doing them a disservice.

Everything points towards the most compelling Manchester derby yet as the league's form team take on the side stuffed full of superstars.

It will probably be 0-0 now, won't it?