Women’s Superleague: Man Utd look to extend their lead as Gareth Taylor marks Man City’s centenary

Natasha Flint, Leah Galton, and Lucy Stainforth
Manchester United and Leicester City meet again in the Women’s Super League this weekend after United won 1-0 against City in October
Date: Sunday, March 5 Time: 12:30 GMT Premises: Leigh Sports Village, Leigh
BBC report: Live TV coverage on BBC Two and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Manchester United and Manchester City could capitalize on the absence of Chelsea and Arsenal from the Women’s Super League when the top flight returns this weekend.

United beat Tottenham to move above Chelsea in first place, while third-placed City are three points adrift of the leaders after beating Arsenal in their final league game to overtake the Gunners.

Down below, a resurgent Leicester City are in close proximity to coming off the foot of the table, with Tottenham hoping Kit Graham will inspire them to get out of trouble.

Here are five things to look forward to this weekend, including landmarks for managers and players…

United Eye four-point pillow

Chelsea’s League Cup final against Arsenal on Sunday gives Manchester United a chance to take four points clear at the top of the WSL as bottom side Leicester visit Leigh Sports Village.

In case United need further pressure, the reigning champions will have two matches to play full-time and will host Marc Skinner’s side at Kingsmeadow a week later.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps, courtesy of her, had cause to celebrate this week triumph in the Best Fifa Awards in Paris, and the England international will no doubt be satisfied with a repeat of United’s result exactly one year before this match.

Then Leicester conceded two goals from Katie Zelem directly from corners in a 4–0 defeat.

United’s concerns, however, may come from the other side. All three goals scored in the WSL’s last three games came after the 67th minute, and their goalless draw at home to Everton means they risk missing a goal in consecutive home games for the first time.

Graham’s return lifts the Spurs

Kit Graham training
Tottenham’s Kit Graham (right) lifted spirits and improved standards in the team after returning to training and playing after a long injury break

While every manager wants creative players with a sense of purpose, the return of Kit Graham seems especially timely for struggling Tottenham.

The striker came off the bench against Reading in the FA Cup last Sunday, ending a 16-month break with an ACL injury.

The Spurs have failed to score in the first four games of their current seven-game losing streak in the WSL, and Graham should increase their threat if he performs during his visit to Manchester City.

Goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela said the return of the “footballer” was a “big moment” for the team, and head coach Rehanne Skinner agreed.

“It’s been a really long process for her,” said Skinner, praising Graham’s ability to increase the collective intensity and quality of training sessions.

“She worked so hard and I am incredibly proud of her. He’s a great character. It’s huge for us.”

Leicester’s Tactics for Survival

Two wins in their last three WSL games have brought Leicester five points more than in their previous 16 league games combined.

Manager Willie Kirk wasn’t entirely convinced by his players’ performance when they beat Liverpool 1-0 in their final WSL match, but they could have won by potentially knocking out Brighton & Hove Albion and Reading.

Higher, more aggressive pressure was key to City’s revival and Kirk said he would look to use that again on his trip to United, where the Scot has fond memories of being a manager after forming the women’s side in June 2018.

Setting scoring targets and focusing his players on their own fate in the relegation battle helped Kirk lead City’s marked improvement.

Kirk admitted his team was under no pressure to upset United but a positive result is a much less fanciful idea than it was two months ago.

Tone for Taylor

Photo of Gareth Taylor from Man City

Gareth Taylor will manage his 100th game as Manchester City manager as he looks to beat Spurs in his 73rd win.

Nine of those wins came as part of City’s current 11-match unbeaten run in the league and another on Sunday would make them joint leaders should United lose.

“We were right in the competition in my first season and took Chelsea right up to the last game,” said Taylor, reflecting on a reign that began in May 2020.

“Last season was the only one where we’ve been so far that we’ve done incredibly well to get back into Champions League qualification. We are there again this year.”

The City team is not talking about the title, Taylor said, but added: “The worst thing we can do right now is not give it our all. We’ve put ourselves in a good, healthy position.”

Longhurst set as a landmark

West Ham United supporter Kate Longhurst is in for another proud moment in her illustrious career as the Hammers head to Reading in search of their first win in four league games.

Appearing in all of his team’s WSL games this season, Longhurst will match England legend Jill Scott’s impressive 175 appearance tally if he takes the field against the Royals.

Scott has the second most appearances of all time, and Longhurst is unlikely to have long to wait to break the record right away.

The versatile 33-year-old, who won the title in each of her first two of her five years at Liverpool after joining the club from Chelsea in 2013, needs 177 appearances to equalize. Gilly Flaherty record.

Longhurst, the reigning Hammer of the Year, named Flaherty as his footballing idol earlier this season – and former West Ham teammates also share the feat of longevity.

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