Heading into the game against their city rivals, United had the chance to cut the gap between themselves and Chelsea and thereby increase the gap between themselves and the Citizens, who had failed to win their last two league games following a draw against Arsenal and a defeat to Chelsea.
United had conceded a late equaliser against Arsenal in the previous gameweek of the league as well and Marc Skinner’s side came into the game with just one change from the draw against the Gunners. Leah Galton, who had picked up a concussion in training, made way for Vilde Boe Risa in the three behind the striker.
United struggled to dictate the game early on and City got the first chance through Vicky Losada. Lucy Bronze’s dribble on the flank was dealt poorly by United and they failed to clear the pass inside, following which Lauren Hemp set up Losada, who fired over.
City had a golden chance to take the lead two minutes later as Jess Park set up Hemp, who failed to find the back of the net despite the gaping goal in front of her. City got into the rhythm of dictating tempo soon and United struggled to deal with them during defensive transitions, often getting overrun in the heart of the park.
Despite that, United didn’t stop pressing from the front and kept digging in despite City’s dominance. The city rivals kept ramping up the chances, with Bronze’s movement on the flank causing big issues to United. A couple of minutes before half time, Bronze did set up Ellen White, who missed the chance to hand the lead to City.
The only positive for Skinner from the first half was that United held their shape quite well, only to be limited to mere counter-attacks that didn’t lead to anything concrete.
United did start the second half in a more resolute manner by keeping City at arm’s length and denying them any chances until the team from the blue side of Manchester hit the post at the hour mark. Park’s shot struck the post after having beaten everyone - including Mary Earps, on the way.
The impact of heavy winds made it tough for United to cause their usual problems during set-pieces, as Katie Zelem’s deliveries failed to make too much of an impact and City’s Alex Greenwood also struggled from dead-ball situations.
It was only in the 77th minute that United got a chance through a set-piece, as Martha Thomas headed wide from a corner. United did grow into the game late in the game, as City struggled to keep up their control of the ball.
But Caroline Weir’s brilliance in the 81st minute handed them a rather deserved lead, as the Scot received the ball in advanced midfield only to lob Earps brilliantly from outside the box. Earps was only slightly off her line but Weir’s shot was perfectly timed.
After the goal, City kept United pretty much at arm’s length, as they dictated possession and refused to allow the Reds to have any sort of consistent control.
As a result of the defeat, the gap between the two Manchester sides reduced to two points, with City below United. The Reds are now two points off Tottenham, four off Chelsea and six off Arsenal, with Emma Hayes’ side having a game in hand.