Manchester. A city steeped in history, driven by true northern grit and working-class people with a love for the beautiful game. Home to the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway, Oasis, Rolls-Royce and Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the Suffragettes. A city united through being a nucleus for science & industry, music and literature, will forever be divided by an all too common question; Blue or Red?
Manchester City or Manchester United? Dominated for many years by the men’s game, in recent times, we cannot overlook the powerful resurgence of women’s football in the city of Manchester.
Founded in 1986, ‘City in the Community' is Manchester City’s community-based project. One of its members, Neil Mather, organised a female-only 5-aside tournament two years later. The tournament proved successful enough to inspire the creation of a women’s team to represent the city, under the original title – Manchester City Ladies Football Club. The team played their inaugural game against Oldham Athletic Ladies, November 27th, 1988.
The success of the team led Neil Mather to meet with Women’s FA secretary Linda Whitehead, who supported the team in joining the North West League second division in 1989. The club finished 4th in their inaugural season narrowly missing out in promotion to the top division, generating a great deal of national attention.
August 2012 saw the revival of the Women’s team as Manchester City Council looked to aid in rebuilding the club and promote recognition for the female game. The team secured promotion to the Women’s National Division – the UK’s 2nd highest division in woman’s football – and in 2013 reached the Women’s Super League (WSL). Their debut season also included winning the Continental Cup, after beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final.
At the start of 2014, the team was rebranded to “Manchester City Women’s Football Club”, with an increased focus on female football development in the community and academy at the Etihad Campus. In 2016, success soon followed, with the team securing a Champions League place and going unbeaten to win their first league title. They now find themselves in the 2019 SSE Women’s FA Cup semi-final where they will face Chelsea Women, after an impressive 3-0 win over Liverpool.
As of last year, City Women became the most successful women’s team in England by holding all 3 domestic titles (League, FA Cup and League cup). From 2016, Manchester City hold the claim of becoming the first women's club in English football with an average crowd of over 2,000 in a season.
Manchester United, without a women’s team since 2005, established themselves in the FA Women’s Championship (previously Women’s Super League 2) in May of 2018, winning their first competitive match 1-0 against fierce rivals Liverpool. Playing most of their home games at Leigh Sports Village, United can boast a record 4,835 attendance in a FA Women’s League Cup game (vs Reading).
In the 2018/19 season, the Reds went on to prove an impressive 10 game unbeaten run from September to December, while maintaining a 10-game scoring record within that time. Casey Stoney’s side also recorded an impressive 12 unanswered goals against Aston Villa to break the league record of highest-scoring game.
United have continued to make a statement in domestic cups in their inaugural season reaching the semi-final in the League Cup, as well as a narrow 3-2 defeat in a tough quarter- final match in this year’s SSE Women’s FA cup quarter-final against Reading. Having won 12 of their 13 league games, Manchester United Women currently sit in second position in the FA Women’s Championship, two points behind Tottenham Hotspur who they face on March 31st.
Off the pitch, the Manchester United foundation run multiple female based programmes, most notably the FA Regional Girls Talent Club and Girls Development Program. The FA Regional Girls Talent club focuses on attracting local female talent to participate in intense training and support in hopes of developing these young girls into international players. The Girl’s Development program focuses on getting more girls involved in football through lunchtime, after school and holiday sessions providing football and coaching opportunities.
The foundation is also partnered with South Manchester Girls Football league developing girls’ football at a grassroots level. The partnership has delivered multiple workshops and sessions, with proven success with a 41% increase in female participation since the partnership in 2016.
As United Women continue to push for promotion at the top of the Women’s Championship and City Women continue to reach new levels of success, winning the Continental Cup earlier this year, all eyes are on next season where we could see our first modern-day Women’s Manchester derby.