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 bitterly cold afternoon in Manchester, 44,259 fans watched as two famous rivals battle it out, not only for bragging rights but also to increase their chances of a title shot.
Manchester United’s thrilling 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium left them third and fourth in the table respectively, but with a good chance of finishing first.
A loss to City could have ended their hopes, while a United defeat would have tarnished confidence in what had been a fine campaign so far.
“I don’t think either team necessarily deserved the full 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 came into their own in the second half.
“It’s a reasonable result, but one that will probably make Chelsea and Arsenal a lot happier than Manchester City or Manchester United.
“For me it’s from Chelsea Women’s Super League: Manchester City and Manchester United keep things interesting in title race to throw away – they are favorites to win the league.”
But former Brighton defender Fern Whelan believes the result has opened up battle at the top.
“It keeps City in but United will be disappointed because they had such a good run and they stayed there,” she told Sky Sports.
“A point apiece keeps the top four very exciting.”
United’s ‘change of mind’ is paying off
After earning four points from matches against Chelsea, Arsenal and City, the disappointed faces of full-time manager Marc Skinner and his United players reflected their mood for the result. They clearly felt they could and should have achieved a first ever league victory over City.
But to go to the home of their local rivals and historically superior counterparts and pick up a point has earned Skinner’s side a place at the table of the ‘title challengers’.
“We have a different mindset now, we’re disappointed we didn’t win,” admitted Skinner, whose side finished fourth in the WSL last season, five points behind City in third.
That was emphasized when striker Alessia Russo waved her arms in the air with minutes to go, urging her side to move further up the pitch.
Buoyed by their incredible 3-2 comeback win at Arsenal last month, United brought forwards Lucia Garcia and Martha Thomas in their quest for a winner.
“We’re not making any defensive changes, we come here and we want to win the game,” added Skinner. “We made offensive substitutions and created some great chances in the second half.
“It is a change of mentality. We are now showing that we are not happy to just come and compete at these moments. We want to win these games.”
The intensity of the game really picked up after City’s equalizer and play became frantic, but Skinner kept his composure as he watched from the bench.
City have been based 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 divide between us and them in our favor,” Skinner said.
“They have a lot of history on their side and have done a great job, but we have to make sure we can rise to the occasion.
“This team is not going to stop. We are not going to collapse at any point. We keep building, keep driving and keep expecting.”
City challenged another winning streak
United may have undergone a change in mindset, but City’s drive and determination have seen them through the toughest times.
Last season, plagued by injuries and all but ruled out of a Champions League place, City rallied late. They won 11 consecutive matches in all competitions, finished third in the WSL and defeated Chelsea in the Continental Cup final.
On Sunday, the Blues looked below average after Galton’s crushing effort that ricocheted off the inside of Alex Greenwood’s legs.
Even in the opening changes of the second half, Taylor’s side were still boxed in and struggled to find an opening in front of a subdued home crowd.
But Laura Coombs’ header in the 58th minute gave the hosts a huge boost.
But despite pushing for victory themselves, they were left relieved 10 minutes from time when City keeper Ellie Roebuck smiled ruefully and cradled the ball after keeping a header away from Thomas.
City are three points behind United and five points behind league leaders Chelsea and Arsenal, but boss Taylor said: “We want to win the league. We’ve put ourselves in a situation where we can and if we win all our games after the break we can we do it.
“We have proven that we can win continuously and it is good that we have allowed ourselves to do it again. We are looking forward to that challenge.”