Manchester City and Manchester United's rivalry goes way back decades, but the two Manchester teams have been in contention for the same competitions only recently. For years City lived under the shadows of United, but now the "noisy neighbours" are at par with their illustrious rivals.
Actually, even better – under Pep Guardiola, they look like Alexander the Great's knight who are at the zenith of the Premier League table, with just one defeat to their name.
However, male football is not the sole area where City has trumped United. The Manchester City women's football team is on a high this year too; they already have two trophies to boast of – the Women's Super League and the Continental Cup.
City’s successful women’s programme
Manchester City's women are continuously raising the bar and leading the way for other clubs to follow suit. They are inspiring others to make proper investments in their academies too.
Meanwhile, United are still hesitant to launch their own women's team despite being criticised for the lack of it. The time taken by United with its dilatory strategy of a women’s team is the same time taken by City to build up a champion team, who are now eyeing a Champions League title.
Not only that, City have also roped in big sponsors like Nike and Nissan for their women’s team, and have acquired a massive fan base. United does have a youth centre for girls, but what’s the point of honing their skills till 18 and then leaving them to it? It is a sheer waste of all the hard work and training they provide to the young girls.
On the other hand, a full-fledged women’s team will only help their cause. United can replicate the male team’s business model to launch their women’s team. Since they already have a youth centre, they can move on to launch a senior academy and consequently a senior team.
Women’s football growing quickly
Women’s football is accelerating at a rapid rate in the UK. The last FIFA Women's World Cup, held in 2015, had 750 million viewers. And the England team’s historic success – their third-place finish – is the highest for any English side since 1966.
There is ample evidence that women's football has arrived. Many other elite Premier League clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool have introduced their women’s teams too.
These teams are professionalising women’s football to Premier League standards, and this has made England one of the strongest teams in the world. USA dominates women's football because US colleges have a well-structured professional development system in place to foster the game, which means that their players have superior fitness levels and match experience when compared with female footballers from outside US.
The Glazer family, which owns Manchester United, must know about the big strides taken in their own backyard by the US women’s football team.
England’s recent success
But with Premier League teams funding women’s football in England more, the results are there for everyone to see. The hugely successful World Cup campaign, where they finished 3rd, is a prime example of that.
The English could give USA and other strong women’s football teams tough competition, as they have always been technically superior to the Americans, but can now match them in fitness too with the high-quality training and facilities that they now get.
Russell James, Head of Marketing FA, spoke about women's football in England and said, “2.89 million women and girls play football in England. By 2018, FA wants it to be the second-biggest participation sport in England, behind men’s football.”
National forward Kelly Smith, who plays with the Arsenal women's team, had some strong words about United's stance.
"It is extremely disappointing to see that MUFC do not have a women’s side especially as they are one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Interestingly, MUFC have girls youth football, however once those girls reach women's football they can’t progress into the first team which seems like a natural progression for a club.
“The women’s game is growing rapidly and getting more recognition with the clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, showing the women’s game respect. It would be great to see Manchester United start a women’s team and support the game in the near future,” she added.
So what is it that’s stopping Manchester United from wading into women’s football? They have all the resources required to help a women’s side succeed. United recently became the first British club to earn more than £500m in one year, despite lacklustre performances on the field, and signed Paul Pogba for a world record fee of £89M.
Despite that, not recognising the commercial potential of the fast growing women’s football game is rather strange and, some would argue, even a little sexist.