The grey sky and cold weather didn’t stop a devoted crowd from showing up at Leigh Sports Village for the FA cup tie between Manchester United and Manchester City, and they brought their most animated selves, chanting and creating an atmosphere that was fitting to the heaviness of the derby. The two sides had already met twice this season, each team coming away with a win and a loss respectively.
Getting off to a shaky start
United was on City’s heels right from the start and forced City to spend a lot of time rolling the ball around in their own half, trying to find a way forward. They did well pushing the visitors back but the Blues were still dominating ball possession from early on, and despite all the ball-rolling, it was City who created the most chances in the first half, with goalkeeper Mary Earps denying a few good efforts from the City attack. it was Ellen White that would go on to break the deadlock and score the first goal for City, capitalising on a mistake from center back Abbie McManus in the United defence. She came head to head with Earps, who went out and tried to close the angle, but White chipped the ball over the keeper. As the game went on, United struggled a lot with playing the ball forward and were not able to create a lot of chances in the first half, as they were opting to play it back.
Picking up in intensity
The second half saw more of United going forward and they imposed themselves more, but even as it looked like United were closer to a goal, it was City that grabbed their second, with White getting on the scoresheet again. Caroline Weir played a solid ball down the line to Lauren Hemp, who put the ball in the box where White just put a foot to it and swirled it past Earps. The first substitution of the game was Jane Ross coming off for Lauren James, a change which proved to be pivotal. The addition of the 18-year-old on the pitch sparked the whole United team, and she would come to change the scoreline as well. James got the ball outside of the box and set off, twisting and turning before she fired off a tremendous shot past three defenders and Ellie Roebuck in goal. Not long after the goal there was a contested situation where a free-kick into the box was poked in goal and quickly cleared, but the referee decided it was not a goal, even though replays afterwards show that the ball was clearly over the line.
Instead, City would go on to score another one, this time Jill Scott got on the scoresheet. But United would get one back on the visitors, after a corner in the last minutes resulted in a Lauren Hemp own-goal, but it wasn’t enough to see it through for the Reds.
City coach Nick Cushing:
“We didn’t manage it from 2-0, we didn’t manage it from 3-1, it shouldn’t have ended the way it did, really. But it’s a derby, it’s a FA cup game. I think for those watching it was a crazy game. It wasn’t very nice watching the last 10 minutes but I thought we played well in the game offensively, I just thought we gave away two cheap goals.”
United coach Casey Stoney:
“I’m gutted and disappointed because I thought the players deserved more. They executed the game plan excellently, I thought we were getting stronger in the game. I thought we had two perfectly good goals not given. So I’m disappointed, but at the same time I’m really proud of them.”
United captain Katie Zelem:
“When we brought it back to 2-1 we gained a lot of momentum, you could see that, so it was disappointing to concede the third goal at that stage of the game but we fought back to the death so hopefully we take that spirit into Wednesday.”
“She [Lauren James] is unbelievable, you could see what difference she made when she came on and if you can get the ball at her feet then you’re hoping a bit of magic can happen.”