Casey Stoney

Casey Stoney calls for better start from Reds

Manchester United Women’s head coach Casey Stoney says the Reds need to start Thursday’s game against Manchester City better than we did the Women’s Super League clash between the sides on Saturday.

United need a win to realistically keep our hopes of progressing in the Continental Cup alive, while our rivals only require a point to guarantee automatic qualification to the knockout stage.

United produced a stunning second-half performance five days ago, fighting back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw at Leigh Sports Village against our crosstown rivals - but Stoney is keen to avoid a repeat tomorrow evening.

“I thought this was the best I’ve seen City play in the first half,” she told club media.

“I think we allowed them to play like that. We got sloppy, we weren’t at our standards.

“I was really pleased with the team’s action and character [in the second half], but we just can’t put ourselves in that position early on.”

Watch Casey's interview with club media in full.

Saturday’s game, during which substitutes such as Lauren James and goalscorer Kirsty Hanson made all the difference, has left Stoney with a difficult decision on who should start the Continental Cup clash.

“I’ve got a great squad, everyone’s working hard, everyone’s dedicated, we’ve got players coming off the bench making a real impact,” our head coach added.

“Those that maybe haven’t played minutes are still training exceptionally well.

“It’s a great headache for me to have, and it’s another game where we can get minutes into people, but most importantly try and win the game.”

United have been spectacular so far in the 2020/21 campaign, and are one of only two sides undefeated in the league.

We have taken points from close rivals Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City, but Stoney is not letting her side’s fine form distract her from day-to-day realities.

“[Our aims] very much remain the same: taking one game at a time.

“Yes, we’re in a good position in the league, we want to stay in and around that top three for as long as we can; we’re in our third year, we want to try and qualify and break into that top three, and that remains our ambition for now.”

Highlights: United Women 2 Man City 2Video

Lucy Staniforth was one of the crucial ‘game-changing’ substitutions Stoney made in the 2-2 draw against City, and the talented midfielder says she is ready to appear from the off for the club, for the first time since signing from Birmingham City in the summer.

“I’m chomping at the bit, I’m ready to start, I’m doing all I can to be ready at the moment, and I think the rest of the team are too,” enthused Staniforth.

“Credit to Casey, she’s maintained the squad and kept us all together. I’m so supportive of my teammates, and I want to do my own bit as well.”

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When asked about the fierce competition between the squad for starting positions, Staniforth believes that the sheer depth of talent within the team has been vital to both her and United’s recent performances.

“I’m learning so much from each and every one of them, picking up little bits here and there which I can try to add to my game to make me better.

“But yeah, I can’t lie, training is fiercely competitive. We’ve got some big winners on our team, obviously that spreads across the group.

“I think you can see that on a gameday, we’re hunting down every ball, putting our body on the line, and we’re trying to create chances and score, so [it’s] definitely a good place to be.”

Watch United v City live on MUTV at 19:00 GMT on Thursday.