A point. It didn’t seem like much, but in the context of this season’s Women’s Super League title race, it certainly kept things interesting.
On a frosty afternoon in Manchester, 44,259 fans watched two famous rivals go head-to-head not just for bragging rights, but to bolster their chances of winning the title.
that of Manchester United Thrilling 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium left them third and fourth in the table respectively behind Chelsea and Arsenal, but very much in contention to finish first.
A City defeat could have ended their hopes, while a United defeat would have shaken confidence in what has been a fine campaign so far.
“I don’t think either team necessarily deserved the three points,” former United goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Manchester United probably dominated the first half a bit more, but then Manchester City dominated a lot more in the second half.
“It’s a fair result but one that will probably make Chelsea and Arsenal much happier than Manchester City or Manchester United.
“For me, it’s Chelsea Women’s Super League: Manchester City and Manchester United keep things interesting in title race to throw away – they are the favorites to win the league.”
But former Brighton defender Fern Whelan believes the result opened up the battle at the top.
“It keeps City in it, but United will be disappointed because they were on such a good run and were keen on it,” she said on Sky Sports.
“One point apiece keeps the top four very exciting.”
United’s ‘change of mentality’ is paying off
After earning four points from matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and City, the disappointed faces of manager Marc Skinner and his full-time United players reflected their mood at the result. They clearly felt they could and should have sealed a first-ever league victory against City.
But to go to the home of their local rivals and historically superior counterparts, and score a point, Skinner’s side have firmly earned themselves a place at the ‘title challengers’ table.
“We have a different mentality now, we’re disappointed not to win,” admitted Skinner, whose side finished fourth in the WSL last season, five points behind third-placed City.
That was on display when striker Alessia Russo waved her arms in the air with minutes remaining, urging her team to push further down the pitch.
Fresh off their incredible 3-2 win at Arsenal last month, United brought in strikers Lucia Garcia and Martha Thomas as they searched for a winner.
“We don’t make defensive changes, we come here and we want to win the game,” Skinner added. “We are making attacking changes and we created some great chances in the second half.
“It’s a change of mentality. We are now showing that we are not happy to come and compete in these times. We want to win these games.”
The intensity of the game only really increased after City equalized and the game turned frantic, but Skinner kept his cool as he watched from the bench.
City have been established in the WSL since 2014, winning the title in 2016, while United only reintroduced their women’s team in 2018.
“Our goal is to try to do it the other way, where there’s a wedge between us and them in our favor,” Skinner said.
“They have a lot of history on their side and have excelled, but we have to make sure we are up to the occasion.
“This team is not going to stop. We are not going to calm down at any time. We are going to keep building, keep driving and keep waiting.”
City challenge for another winning streak
United may have changed their mentality, but City’s drive and determination have seen them through the toughest times.
Last season, plagued by injuries and almost ruled out for a Champions League place, City rallied late. They won 11 consecutive games in all competitions, finishing third in the WSL and beating Chelsea in the Continental Cup final.
On Sunday, the Blues looked below par after Galton’s smashing effort deflected inside the legs of Alex Greenwood.
Even in the opening rallies of the second half, Taylor’s side were still stuck and struggling to find an opening in front of a subdued home crowd.
But Laura Coombs’ 58th-minute header gave the hosts a huge boost.
But, despite pressure for victory themselves, they were relieved with 10 minutes to go as City keeper Ellie Roebuck smiled sadly and cradled the ball after fending off a header from Thomas.
City trail United by three points in the table, Arsenal by five and eight behind leaders Chelsea.
But boss Taylor said: “We want to win the league. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can and, if we win all of our games after the break, we can do that.
“We have proven that we can go on continuous winning streaks and it is good that we have put ourselves in a position to do so again. We look forward to this challenge.”