The sight of Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp from Manchester City and England, cupping their ears, slapping their badges, and sliding on their knees, will be a haunting memory for the Old Trafford audience after their team’s defeat in the derby.
“We received what we deserved,” stated Marc Skinner, the manager of Manchester United. “I believe we did not perform at our best as a team. We must take responsibility as a group for our shortcomings. In victory and defeat, we stand united.”
Katie Zelem’s penalty put United ahead, following a handball by their ex-captain Alex Greenwood. They could also argue that another goal was wrongly disallowed due to the ball going out of play on the byline. However, replays were unable to definitively determine if the ball had crossed the line.
However, within a span of just over a minute, Jill Roord scored two goals, with assistance from Kelly and Hemp, which caused Manchester United to suffer their first defeat in the Women’s Super League and helped Manchester City break their losing streak and rise above their competitors. In the second half, Khadija Shaw added a third goal for City by pressuring United’s goalkeeper Mary Earps during a clearance. Later on, City’s Laia Aleixandri received a second yellow card for pulling back Lucía García, resulting in her being sent off.
United have finally had the opportunity to compete in a local match at Old Trafford, after waiting for the performance difference between them and their rivals, who have been champions in 2016 and consistently strong contenders, to decrease slightly. They have previously played four times at Old Trafford, facing West Ham twice, as well as Everton and Aston Villa. However, their recent game against City on Sunday set a new attendance record for the club with 43,615 fans in attendance.
The Red Devils had an impressive home record against City, having drawn twice and beaten their rivals once at Leigh Sports Village before hosting them at Old Trafford. That victory came in May last season, a first win against City, as United finished above them for the first time.
Before this game, City had suffered two consecutive losses against Arsenal and Brighton, putting their chances of winning the title in jeopardy. No team has ever lost three games and still won the WSL title.
According to City manager Gareth Taylor, the outcome was significant. He stated, “This match boosts our confidence and may serve as a launching point for us.”
Taylor expressed a stoic attitude towards both his performances and the outcomes – even if we were to lose tonight, he wouldn’t let it keep him from leaving his comfort zone for an extended period of time.
The story has been that Manchester United is undergoing a change in leadership, and their first game only added to this narrative. In the midst of an intense and fast-paced match, Melvine Malard made a move and shot towards the goal, but the ball hit Greenwood’s arm. This resulted in a penalty kick for Zelem, which she confidently converted despite the goalkeeper Khiara Keating getting a hand on it.
Ten minutes after, United had a prime chance to increase their lead as Geyse received the ball near the sideline and took a shot, but it was deemed out of bounds. The WSL does not have VAR, and even after multiple replays, it was inconclusive if the ball had crossed the line.
Skinner expressed that he does not want to give excuses for the disallowed goal. He thinks they could have passed the ball earlier and scored. He believes that as a team, they did not perform as well as they usually do tonight.
The story is not always straightforward and, even though the competition between the Manchester teams is getting closer, this match demonstrated that a change in momentum takes time and two goals in just 79 seconds clearly shifted things in favor of City.
Initially, Kelly defeated Lisa Naalsund on the left side and then passed a low cross to Roord in the center. The Dutch forward then scored by shooting through the legs of Millie Turner. Only 16 seconds into the second half, they were in the lead. Shaw’s first attempt was blocked after Zelem lost possession near the box, but the City forward managed to redirect the rebound to Hemp, who then powerfully struck the ball into the top corner.
Shaw delivered the final blow by quickly pursuing Le Tissier’s pass and intercepting Earps’ attempt to clear the ball, sending it past the keeper and into the unguarded net.
City found themselves in a difficult situation when Aleixandri was given a second yellow card for pulling back substitute García, resulting in City’s fourth red card in seven league games. However, it was a determined and resilient performance from City, and their captain, Steph Houghton, came off the bench to lead them to safety.