“Battle mentality”: Fans discuss rivalry in women’s game ahead of tonight’s Manchester Derby

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It’s derby day in Manchester as Manchester City Women host Manchester United Women in the Continental Cup at the Joie Stadium tonight.

But does the rivalry in the women’s game come close to the mutual loathing in the men’s?

The two teams have only faced each other 13 times compared to the 191 clashes between the men’s teams.

Mike Lisle, a member of the Manchester United Women’s Supporters Club, said: “Compared to the men’s it’s slowly getting to that level. As more fans get into the game, the atmosphere builds and the rivalry increases.”

He continued: “United and City are fairly even in terms of where they are in the league and skill of the players. In the men’s game, City always tend to beat us now because they’re a lot better. In the women’s game we are more even so that builds the excitement.”

Of the 13 matches, United have won three, while City have won six and there have been four draws.

Manchester City fan, Emma Meredith-Shone said: “While the intensity of rivalries in women’s football is growing, it doesn’t yet match the long-established, deeply rooted nature of many men’s football rivalries. In the women’s game, rivalries are developing, and matchups against traditional competitors or local adversaries, like Manchester City versus Manchester United, certainly carry significance.”

City currently have bragging rights over United as they sit second in the league whilst United are down in fourth.

Women’s football has grown massively over the last ten years since the formation of the Women’s Super League in 2013.

TV audiences grew significantly when a landmark broadcasting deal was reached for BBC and Sky Sports to broadcast the 2021/22 season.

Following the England Lionesses success in the Euros in Summer of 2022, attendances in the WSL increased by 200% from the 21/22 season to the 22/23 season.        

Shone added: “As women’s football continues to gain prominence, these rivalries are expected to intensify, mirroring the passionate dynamics seen in the men’s game over time.”

Manchester City have recently celebrated their ten year anniversary since reforming whilst Manchester United only reformed five years ago.

John Devonport, a fellow member of the Manchester United Women’s Supporters Club, said: “I think there’s quite a big difference between rivalries in the men’s and the women’s game. The men’s derbies have been born out of decades of fierce rivalry and hatred, battle mentality. Whereas the women’s game is still relatively new in terms of how long they’ve been playing.”

He added: “However, I think a few of us who have come over from the men’s game into the women’s game are trying to get some atmosphere going, singing, and a bit of banter with the opposition fans but what you’ve got to remember is it’s still marketed as family-friendly so obviously we have to tone down the language a little bit.”

Manchester United Women have a songbook with players having their own individual chants, while chants traditionally associated with the men’s team, have been tweaked to remove any bad language.

As attendances grow in the women’s game, so will the rivalry.

Both sets of fans will be hungrier than ever tonight as a United victory would spell elimination for City.

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