Football Features

Man City 1-0 Man Utd: Five things learned from record-breaking FAWSL opener

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:01, 7 September 2019

The new FA Women’s Super League season kicked off with Manchester City beating Manchester United 1-0.

Taking place at the Etihad, Caroline Weir scored the only goal of an exciting game at the start of the second half to get City’s title quest up and running.

But what did we learn from the season opener?

1. Manchester United will cause problems

Manchester United were a curious case going into the new WSL season. The Red Devils walked the Championship in their debut campaign, dropping just five points, but no one could quite predict how they’d cope in the first tier.

If their opening game is anything to go by, Manchester United will be just fine, and will cause some teams big problems. After a shaky start, United took control of the game and had the better chances in the first half. This is against a team that was unbeaten until the final game of last season, and are one of the favourites to win the title this year around.

Such was their dominance, United should have gone in at half-time in the lead, with Jane Ross going close against her former club.

Just four minutes after half-time, Casey Stoney’s side were behind and faced an uphill battle, ultimately succumbing to the pressure despite tactical changes. But there were many positive signs from Man Utd’s first WSL game.

2. Manchester City struggle with Nikita Parris gone

Amid the hustle and bustle of the World Cup in France, Manchester City lost their best player of the last season. The FWA’s Women’s Footballer of the Year, Nikita Parris, scored 19 goals in 19 WSL games for City and added another six assists, having been directly involved in 47.2% of their total goals.

Her ability caught the eye of Olympique Lyonnais and once the French side come knocking, clubs rarely have a chance of keeping their stars.

And against United on the opening day, Parris’ absence was felt at the Etihad. Despite the promise, the likes of Janine Beckie and Georgia Stanway failed to really test Mary Earps in the United goal as City failed to produce many chances. They only took the lead when Weir decided to let one fly from range, sending the ball perfectly into the top right corner.

Fortunately for Nick Cushing, City did buy Ellen White in the summer and shall hopefully be able to call on her soon, once she recovers from injury.

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3. Aoife Mannion highlights City’s defensive problems

One of Manchester City’s summer acquisitions, Aoife Mannion was making her WSL debut for the club having joined from Birmingham City.

Normally a centre-back, Mannion was pushed into the right-back role for Saturday’s season opener, but it may be the last time she is played there. The 23-year-old struggled as United pushed down her flank and was caught out quite a few times.

Most notably in the first half, Mannion allowed Leah Galton to run in behind her before putting a delightful cross into the box for Jane Ross. However, Mannion was saved by Ellie Roebuck’s superb reflexes in the City goal.

But it wasn’t just Mannion, as City’s defence did show signs of weakness throughout, weaknesses a better team would have punished in front of goal. Were City to play against Arsenal and Vivianne Miedema as they did in the first half on Saturday, they would get routed.

4. Leah Galton will be key for United

Galton enjoyed a decent season in the Women’s Championship with United last year, and she is already looking like a WSL player.

The 25-year-old had a wonderful game at the Etihad, despite being on the losing side, and gave Mannion a tough afternoon down United’s left-hand side.

Most of United’s positive play in the first half came through Galton, using both her pace and passing to create chances. The midfielder was unfortunate not to have an assist to her name for a peach of a cross to Ross, who just couldn’t divert her shot past Roebuck.

Galton was eventually taken off for Kirsty Hanson as United looked for something different, but her impact on the team cannot be understated.

5. The WSL is here to stay

After a wonderful summer with the World Cup in France, the task was there for women’s football in England to retain the excitement.

And if the opening game of the new WSL season is anything to go by, women’s football is well and truly on the up.

Going into the new campaign, the record attendance at a WSL game was 5,265 – set last season in Arsenal’s trip to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton, a match which saw them clinch the title.

Already that record has been thrashed, with 31,213 in attendance at the Etihad to watch the thrilling first Manchester derby in WSL history – an increase of almost 500%.

And it’s a record that might not even last 24 hours, with Stamford Bridge expecting a near-full capacity crowd for Chelsea’s London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.