Former Manchester United goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain has praised the work of manager Casey Stoney in developing players and turning the team into Women’s Super League title contenders.
Under Stoney, United won the Championship in 2018-19 – their first season as a professional outfit – and came fourth in the WSL last term.
And ahead of Friday’s derby at Manchester City they are second, three points behind leaders Chelsea.
Chamberlain, a former team-mate of Stoney’s for club and country who also played under her at United, told the PA news agency: “It’s definitely happened a lot quicker than I think a lot of people would have expected.
“I don’t think people would have necessarily thought they’d be competing for the title (this season).
“You look at Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City – the strength in depth they have is probably better than Manchester United.
“But what United have done well is use the squad they’ve got and developed them. Casey has developed those players, those young players who probably weren’t recognised as much as they are now.
“She’s developed them into quality players that are performing week in, week out, and that’s one of the biggest things – the consistency of performance that you’ve seen from Manchester United this season.”
Chamberlain, however, suspects United’s title challenge this season will probably fall short. Injuries to key players could prove costly and Chamberlain thinks they may have to settle for a top-three spot and Champions League qualification .
Chamberlain said: “I think if United had Tobin Heath and Alessia Russo – they are two players that could give them that cutting edge to help them win the league. Without them, I’m not sure they necessarily have the strength in depth.
“I think they will definitely be up there in that top three, and if they get that, I’m sure they will be delighted.”
United were beaten by Reading last weekend. They remain two points ahead of third-placed City but have played a game more than their rivals heading into the derby. City boast fine form having won their last six in the WSL.
City manager Gareth Taylor said: “It is difficult to say how important, but we understand it is going to be an important game. Both clubs would admit to that.
“We are confident, the players are looking sharp. Everyone looks good and is looking forward to the game.
“We’re enjoying being involved in the title race. It feels like the final push now even though we’ve only just gone over halfway.
“You can see the finish line now and everyone’s making a real good charge for it.”
:: This season BT Sport is showing more Barclays FA Women’s Super League matches than ever before. Watch Manchester City v Manchester United on BT Sport 2 from 6.30pm on Friday February 12.
— to www.bt.com