Casey Stoney during warm-up

Casey: Derby comeback was for our fans

Casey Stoney was full of praise for her squad’s mentality after Manchester United Women produced a brilliant comeback against Manchester City in the Women's Super League on Saturday.

Following a first half which saw the Reds go into the break two goals down, strikes from Tobin Heath and substitute Kirsty Hanson after the interval made sure an exciting contest ended 2-2 at Leigh Sports Village.

And, while Stoney admitted a tactical error cost United in the opening 45, she was delighted with the effort the players put in to secure the draw which keeps us top of the table, a point clear of Arsenal, who drew 1-1 with third-placed Chelsea on Sunday.

“I take full responsibility for the first half, I got the press wrong,” Stoney told BT Sport after the game.

“I had to change that at half-time and make sure we pressed differently, because I thought they were picking us off.”

“I think the players were incredible in the second half. I said to them in there that I’m probably more proud today because we were two-nil down and the mentality shift… We might have folded last year, this year we came out and I think we were unfortunate, in the end, not to win it.”

Highlights: United Women 2 Man City 2Video

Stoney also credited her substitutes, among them Hanson, scorer on her 50th United appearance, and Lauren James, who caused City problems throughout a busy 45 minutes off the bench.

“That’s why we call them gamechangers,” the boss said.

“Whether they come in to make us more solid or give the opposition a different problem, they do. Time and time again they come on and make a change. It’s not credit to my substitutions, it’s credit to them because they come on and really apply themselves.”

“I think there’s a mindset now, a mentality shift, that every week we can go toe-to-toe and we can beat teams. Two-nil down against Man City is not an easy feat at half-time and we’ve come out and been the far better team.”

Before Hanson got the equaliser, Heath smashed in the Reds’ first of the afternoon with a rocket of a strike, which Stoney described as 'unbelievable'. 

“[It's] great pressure to start with and what a finish. That’s world class and that’s why we sign these players because they've got that ability in the final third. It comes from the pressure, it comes from us being nice and aggressive. No keeper is going to save that.”

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no fans were there to see the first Manchester derby of the season, which will be followed up by the second - in the Continental Cup - on Thursday.

However, Stoney dedicated the second-half performance to those missing supporters and also added that the Reds couldn't get carried away, even though we remain at the summit of the WSL with almost one-third of the season gone.

“Our fans are fantastic, it would have been incredible [for them to be there]. The second half performance was for them, to make sure we got something out of the game, to make sure we got something out of the Manchester derby, which is really important to our fans.

“It doesn’t matter, it’s November. Even the first half today showed that the last game doesn’t matter. It’s about performing and being at that consistent level week in, week out and we know that we can’t concede those sort of goals and play like we did in the first half. That’s enough motivation now that we go into every game with the right level.”

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