More from Neville, who refuses to rule out jumping ship for the vacant USA gig. Asked if England can rest assured he’s going nowhere, he gloriously swerves the question: “I think the challenge for me personally is to win something with England. You go to a World Cup, you come back and you’ve inspired a nation – you’ve got to climb that mountain again. That is what we have to see from the England players and the WSL players, we have to continue the growth and get better and better.”
Some pre-match soundbites to get the juices flowing. The England manager Phil Neville has his say on almost 30,000 fans heading to the Etihad Stadium for the maiden WSL Manchester derby. “It’s continuing the momentum that we built up in the summer,” says Neville, who’s wearing a mammoth black coat straight out of a headteacher’s wardrobe. “So many people were inspired by the performances of the players, so many people watched and I think they loved what they saw on the field. Today is another good example. We are all so excited.”
Get the lowdown on each and every WSL side:
There is another 3pm kick-off, which has also been upgraded to a bigger stadium with Bristol City playing Brighton & Hove Albion at Ashton Gate. A lot of the discourse is inevitably around attendances, with City’s Demi Stokes keen for playing in bigger arenas to become the norm. “Playing in a packed stadium, it is hard to explain,” Stokes says. “It is the best feeling to look up in the stand and see family and friends, it is surreal and such a nice moment. To be able to do that every week would be really good and I do think we will get there.”
Not one or two – but 10 things to look out for in the WSL:
Essential pre-match reading, via Suzy Wrack and Louise Taylor:
Manchester City (4-4-2): Roebuck; Mannion, Houghton, Bonner, Stokes; Scott, Walsh, Wullaert, Weir; Beckie, Stanway
Subs: Benameur, Coombs, Bremer, Toland, Park, Geum-Min, Fidalgo
Manchester United (4-3-3): Earps; McManus, Ladd, M Turner, Okvist; Groenen, Toone Zelem; Sigsworth, Ross, Galton
Subs: Mikalsen, A Turner, Harris, James, Arnot, Hanson, Smith
Referee: Rebecca Welch
This is it, then. The big kick-off at the Etihad Stadium, where more than 20,000 supporters are expected to pour in to watch the Women’s Super League curtain-raiser between Manchester rivals. It is a much-anticipated maiden top-flight meeting between City and United, with the latter having cruised to promotion from the second tier under Casey Stoney last season.
It is a showpiece match, one of three fixtures this weekend that have been moved to bigger stadiums and the mooted attendance has already ripped up the record books – the biggest crowd to attend a WSL match stands at 5,265 for Arsenal’s title-clinching win at Brighton in April. And on Sunday Chelsea host Tottenham at Stamford Bridge with an even bigger crowd expected at the 41,000-capacity venue.
On the field, there is no end of exciting players to keep an eye on but Ellen White, City’s headline arrival following the departure of last season’s top scorer, Nikita Parris, is sidelined through injury, so the onus is on others to impress, namely another summer recruit, the South Korea captain, Lee Geum-min, who has further bolstered Nick Cushing’s forward line. Across town, United made a coup of their own, with the Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen – a World Cup finalist – joining Stoney’s ranks from Frankfurt. Hopefully we will have a game to match the occasion.
Kick-off: 3pm (BST)