Ahead of the Manchester Derby, GiveMeSport Women sat down for an exclusive chat with former Manchester United and England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
Title hopefuls Manchester City play host to their arch rivals this evening in what has fast become one of the most anticipated Manchester Derbies in years. The two city neighbours will lock horns as they kick off this weekend's round of Women's Super League fixtures.
As it stands, United are in second place in the table, just two points ahead of the Citizens. But a win for City tonight would see them leapfrog their opponents and help pile the pressure on current leaders and reigning champions Chelsea.
"I think it’s great for Manchester to have this derby," former United shot-stopper Siobhan Chamberlain tells GiveMeSport Women. "The fans absolutely love it and the Barmy Army will be gutted that they can’t be at the game.
“They’ve added a different dynamic to women’s football and other teams are now joining in with the friendly rivalry and banter. It’s great to see that developing more in the women’s game."
The 37-year-old was part of Casey Stoney's United side before announcing her retirement in September last year. Chamberlain hung up her boots after enjoying a decorated career, winning the FA Cup with Arsenal and helping to guide the Red Devils to their unstoppable 2018/19 Championship title, and subsequent promotion into the WSL.
The former Lioness welcomed her first child, Emilia, into the world with partner Leigh in 2020, and hung up her boots shortly after.
When asked whether she wishes she was still part of this exciting United side, the goalkeeper replied: "Oh, definitely. Although I’m very happy as a mum and I wouldn’t change anything for the world, you do still wish you were a few years younger or that things were slightly different, but no regrets!"
An underdog season
Manchester United's women's team was reformed in 2018 after being disbanded in 2005. Despite being off the books for 13 years, the club wasted little time in ensuring they attracted some of the game’s best talent.
With ex-England international Stoney at the helm, United have been able to entice the likes of USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press to Manchester. The duo are currently with the Reds on short-term contracts, after making their respective moves from Portland Thorns and Utah Royals.
Chamberlain was quick to wax lyrical about Heath and her influence on the team since signing back in September. However, the U.S. international will miss tonight’s derby due to an ankle injury — a huge blow for Stoney and the team.
The injury has kept Heath on the sidelines since January, and her absence showed heavy in the Reds’ recent 2-0 defeat to Reading.
Not only do United boast some well-established senior internationals, but their younger players have also been a thorn in the side of many an opposition this campaign.
"Ella Toone’s done so well this season," Chamberlain reflected. "Playing regularly has been fantastic for her desire to learn to be the best player she can be.
“Then you move onto Lauren James and she’s an unbelievable talent. She’ll be really frustrated with picking up quite a few injuries this season. But I’m sure Man United will manage her in the right way and, once she’s back fit, will be phenomenal, not just for Man United but for England as well."
With Chelsea currently leading the pack, many believe it’s their title to lose. Man City are heavily encroaching on their position, though, and one slip up could prove enough to flip the entire season’s script on its head, something manager Gareth Taylor will be astutely aware of heading into the derby.
"It’s a frightening time to be playing them," Chamberlain said of her old Manchester rivals. "The expectation will be on City to win but United still have enough to put in a [good] performance and get a result."
City have a game in-hand over both United and Chelsea, which could prove crucial come the end of the season. However, the Red Devils aren't down and out just yet, far from it. Chamberlain even admitted that she fancies her old side to cause a major upset in the WSL.
"I think they’ve [United] definitely got the ability to win it next season," the Hashtag United ambassador said. "I think this season, with the injuries they’ve got, it’s going to be difficult, but if they’d have kept everyone fit then yes, there’s no reason why not.
"Man United are grinding out results even when they’re not necessarily playing well and that’s the biggest factor in success." It’ll be fascinating to see whether Stoney’s side can upset the odds once again this evening.
This season BT Sport is showing more Barclays FA Women’s Super League matches than ever before. Watch Man City v Man Utd on BT Sport 2 from 6.30pm on Friday 12th February.