MARC SKINNER insists Manchester United are not aiming to settle for fourth after nabbing a point against their neighbours.
Laura Coombs pounced to ensure Man City shared the spoils of a 1-1 draw in a record-breaking top-flight duel at the Etihad.
Leah Galton bagged her fourth WSL goal in nine games after giving Manchester United the lead at the Etihad
Marc Skinner says his players’ performances have shown how much they have evolved since last season
Laura Coombs levelled the match for Manchester City with her fourth league goal this term
The match saw the Citizens’ smash their previous WSL crowd record of 31,213 at the ground smashed with 44,259 turning out to watch.
Leah Galton’s opener looked to have given the visitors the perfect early Christmas gift before Coombs’ leveller for the hosts.
The result, which preceded Arsenal’s 4-1 drubbing of Aston Villa and Chelsea’s defeat of Reading, sees Man United end the year in third and three points ahead of the Citizens.
Skinner, whose side have a game in hand on Chelsea, said: “I’m frustrated with the result but not the performance.
“We will continue to evolve this team.
“Honestly, as a coach, it is the most pleasing thing to see the players taking on responsibility and showing their personality.
“We’ve shown so much growth in the first half of the year. It really sets us up for next year.”
The match saw Galton register her fourth league goal in nine WSL games this term.
On the form of the versatile Red Devils ace, Skinner added: “Galton was magnificent.
“She’s a wonderful, wonderful talent. Defensively, offensively, I would not want to play against her.”
While the Red Devils may have missed out on a derby win at the Etihad they are proving to be far more formidable foes for their top three rivals having beaten Arsenal on the road this term.
When asked on where he hopes to strengthen his squad in January Skinner, was tight-lipped on which areas he would be focusing on.
The Red Devils boss said: “Manchester United are not here to compete for fourth.
“We’re actually here to compete in every game we play regardless of the historical position of any team we play against
“I respect everything Manchester City do, I respect everything Chelsea and Arsenal do, I respect everyone in the league.
“We know how difficult a job this is and trying to bridge that gap and we’re planning ahead.”
City, who started strongly, came close to netting in the tenth minute with Alex Greenwood’s delivery prompting a scramble and a superb punched goal-line clearance from Mary Earps.
But the visitors began to get the upper hand.
They took a 27th minute lead with Galton sweeping the ball home after neat build-up play involving Ella Toone, Hannah Blundell and Millie Turner.
Nikita Parris looked to be through on goal moments later before Leila Ouahabi’s stunning tackle thwarted the forward.
And Deyna Castellanos saw her strike from distance comfortably gathered by Earps close to half-time.
The second spell saw United keep the pressure up on Gareth Taylor’s side before Laura Coombs directed a 58th minute header home after Laia Aleixandri’s drive up field.
The game became more end-to-end as City upped the ante and both sides pushed for a late winner
United’s Martha Thomas forced an impressive late close-range save from Ellie Roebuck following Earps stopping a bullet header from Khadija Shaw.
There were shouts of a handball after Greenwood blocked Lucia Garcia’s cross in the second minute of injury time before the game finished a draw.
The outcomes sees remain City fourth and three points behind United before their first league clash of 2023 with West Ham
City boss Taylor said: “I thought a draw was a fair result.
Gareth Taylor believe his Man City side are starting gel effectively following a summer of squad changes
“They edged it in the first half, we did in the second half. It was too much like a basketball match in the final stages for my liking.
“I feel we have a really good team for the future. They’re starting to gel and play well together. It’s exciting.
“We’ve got ourselves into a good position in both competitions we are in.”