Manchester City midfielder Laura Coombs sees the rise of Manchester United as a major force in the Women’s Super League as something to be welcomed.
After being relaunched in 2018, winning the Championship and then coming fourth in the WSL for three successive years, United this term have had their best top-flight campaign to date.
Marc Skinner’s side had been top of the table and are close to securing Women’s Champions League qualification for the first time.
But on the topic of United’s rise, Coombs told the PA news agency: “I think every player prefers the league more competitive.
“I think it now puts our league as probably the best in the world, because it’s the most competitive. So the more teams that can rise up, the better in my opinion.”
With two rounds of games to go, United are second in the table, two points behind Chelsea.
Arsenal, Chelsea’s opponents at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, are three points further back in third, with fourth-placed City another three points behind in the battle for the three Champions League berths.
Asked about the fact that if Chelsea win, City could then end their derby rivals’ title push, Coombs said: “We want to beat United. If that result then stops them, I wouldn’t say that’s why exactly.
City are looking to avoid what would be a first finish outside the European places since 2014, their inaugural WSL campaign.
Yet to be beaten by United in six WSL meetings, winning three of those, City take them on a week after Skinner’s side lost 1-0 to Chelsea in their debut Women’s FA Cup final appearance.
Coombs – scorer of an equaliser in December’s 1-1 Manchester derby draw at the Etihad Stadium, a moment she describes as a “highlight of my career” – has no doubt United will “come all guns blazing”.
And the 32-year-old added: “Like us, they lost their last game so they want to put that right straight away. They always give us a good game, and I think every year the games between us are getting more and more competitive. It’s really exciting to be a part of.”
That momentum has slowed with two defeats in the last four for Gareth Taylor’s side, 2-1 at Arsenal and then Liverpool last time out.
Coombs, whose season has included signing a new deal with the club running to 2025 as well as returning to the England squad, said: “I think it has been a bit of a rebuilding year.
“We bounced back pretty quickly after the first two games of the season and we’ve got ourselves in a place now where we’re a solid group, and there won’t be a big turnover at the end of the year.
“So I think going into next year that puts us in a really strong position. We have had large periods of the year where we’ve played some really great stuff and we’ve got back to a competitive place in the league. So I think if we look at it as a building year, it makes next year really exciting for us.”