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'I hope Liverpool stay up' - Man Utd boss Stoney explains why rivalries in women's game are different

01:30 GMT+3 11/01/2020
Vicky Jepson Casey Stoney split pic
Emma Mitchell's loan move from Arsenal to Tottenham was controversial, but the ex-Gunner explains why she'd have no issue loaning a player to a rival

Manchester United boss Casey Stoney hopes that relegation-threatened Liverpool can stay up this season, insisting that rivalries in the women’s game are much different than the men's game.

The two clubs have long been enemies in the men’s game, due to their geographic ties and because they are the two most successful clubs in English football.

However, the same does not apply to the relationship between Stoney’s side – who are just two years old in their current iteration – and Vicky Jepson’s Reds, who meet on Sunday.

It’s a subject that came to the fore recently after Arsenal defender Emma Mitchell joined Tottenham Hotspur on loan, to the outrage of many fans of the two clubs and women’s football in general.

But Stoney believes the reaction to the move was ridiculous, saying: “She’s not playing football. She’s a football player and she wants to play football.

“Maybe she doesn’t want to move out of London. Maybe it’s the best move for her to actually play time in, time out.”

Asked whether she would have any issues loaning a player to Liverpool, for example, Stoney was clear: “No, I wouldn’t see any reason not to.

“I think the rivalries in the women’s game aren’t as historic and ingrained as in the men’s game, but because we’re having the crossover of fans now, which is great, you do get some of that coming across.

“If it was the right opportunity for my player, and it was the right club, the right philosophy, and the right way to play, I wouldn’t hesitate, because it’s the right thing to do for my player.

“They would just have to turn [their phone] off for about six months!"

“I think it’s a very difficult job for Vicky at Liverpool," Stoney added. "She has had a difficult start, but they have improved so much.

“You look at their results recently and they are losing by the odd goal. They got a good draw against Chelsea before Christmas.

“She is a good person so I’m really hoping they stay up. Liverpool Football Club is a massive name for the women’s game, so we kind of need them to stay up.”

That’s not to say that the former Arsenal defender isn’t enjoying the way that rivalries are growing, though.

Man Utd have one of the most vocal followings in the Women’s Super League, with their ‘Barmy Army’ helping to spark new editions of traditional derbies into life.

In fact, some Man Utd fans chanted "City reject" at Liverpool's Melissa Lawley – who moved from Manchester City during the summer – during the clubs' last meeting, sparking some controversy.

Stoney, however, had no problem with banter between rival fans and players.

“I think it’s brilliant. I like it. People get too sensitive because you’re calling someone a reject? It’s what they do in the men’s game, and we want to transfer fans across,” Stoney said.

“Now, don’t get me wrong: we don’t want foul and abusive language in our stands, because it’s a family game.

“But I think the little bits of light-heartedness, the songs between the teams – as long as they’re not negative towards a person or previous part of the club that’s gone on, I think it’s great.

“Do we just want clapping every time someone passes the ball? There’s no atmosphere. That’s not what the players want.

“We’ve had some great games here where the fans have been to-ing and fro-ing, and when we went to Chelsea it was a great atmosphere, especially when the grounds are quite tight.

“We want an atmosphere, but we don’t want to discourage families from coming at the same time, so it’s a bit of a balance. 

“The women’s game is unique. We’ve got a unique selling point in terms of the engagement between players and fans. I think we have a family atmosphere.

“I wouldn’t take my kids to some men’s games - not a chance, because the language and the feeling on the terraces sometimes isn’t great.

“We don’t need to copy everything from the men’s game; we need to make sure that we keep doing what we’re doing to keep the women’s game honest, to keep it pure, to make sure that fans keep wanting to come back.

“But I like the rivalry: I like the singing, I like the banter, I love all of that.”