Gareth Taylor was potentially 15 minutes from the sack. His City side were 2-1 down in the Manchester derby and on the brink of a fourth straight defeat before Ellen White salvaged a draw.
How precious that point could be come the end of the season. City’s struggles with injuries have been well documented and they were still without nine first-team players on Saturday.
Taylor has come under increasing pressure since City crashed out of the Champions League at the qualifying stage last month, and results in the league have been no better.
Gareth Taylor was on the edge of being sacked as Manchester City fell behind at rivals United
Would the club have been tempted to fire their manager had White not been in the right place at the right time to tap home the equaliser?
City are not known for making rash decisions and have placed great faith in the coaches who have come through their academy.
Taylor has no doubt earned some leeway and, given the difficulties he has faced at the start of the season, he deserves to be cut some slack.
The fight his team showed suggests they are playing for him and can turn their season around.
City had to play with 10 players for 55 minutess after Georgia Stanway was sent off for a reckless challenge on Leah Galton.
Ellen White saved her manager with a late equaliser, as the players fight on for their boss
The England international has been forced to fill in at right back since injuries to Lucy Bronze and Esme Morgan and her rash tackle was indicative of a midfielder playing in defence.
Stanway is not the only one who has been forced to play out of position, with Jill Scott a makeshift centre back alongside left back Alex Greenwood.
Demi Stokes is the one member of the defence playing in her natural position.
Summer signing Alanna Kennedy has not played since being exposed in the 5-0 thrashing by Arsenal. She was ineligible for the FA Cup game with Leicester and has been unable to win her place back from midfielder Scott, who Taylor says is in the side for her experience and leadership.
‘She’s a great character, she’s someone who the girls gravitate to,’ Taylor said.
‘Alanna and Ruby (Mace) are not doing a lot wrong and it was an opportunity to play one of those but I couldn’t consider taking Jill out of the team. She showed good leadership. It’s an alien position for Jill but having her there for her leadership in the team has helped massively.’
Midfielder Jill Scott has been moved back to centre-back to fill-in and inject some experience
Given all of City’s problems and their form going into the derby, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for United to get their first Women’s Super League win over their rivals — but it was one they were unable to take.
Two goals in four minutes from Lucy Staniforth and Alessia Russo saw them go 2-1 ahead after Khadija Shaw had opened the scoring for City in the first half. But the visitors were level just four minutes later when White tapped in after Mary Earps had tipped Jess Park’s thunderous shot on to the bar.
So where does this leave Marc Skinner’s side? The goal is still third place and securing that all-important Champions League spot. They are six points ahead of City but a victory would have given them the psychological edge.
‘It’s a missed opportunity in terms of three points but it’s a step forward in terms of mentality and experience together,’ said Skinner.
Manchester City are struggling down near the bottom of the WSL but they could start a revival
‘There’s slight disappointment but to come back and put ourselves in that (winning) position shows a lot of positives.’
United will hope they don’t come to rue letting victory slip. This was undoubtedly a better point for City than for them.
‘We showed great spirit,’ said Taylor. ‘To come back the way we did shows everything about this group of players at the moment.’
There may yet be light at the end of the tunnel for the City boss and his team.
Arsenal made it five wins from five matches as goals from Katie McCabe, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Frida Maanum propelled them to a 3-0 victory over Everton. The Gunners took the lead in the 32nd minute when McCabe fired in a stunning volley.
Wubben-Moy snatched a second before half-time as she headed home from a corner before Maanum added a third late in the second half. It leaves Arsenal three points clear of Tottenham, who suffered their first defeat of the season at Brighton.
Lee Geum-min fired in a shot from the edge of the box to put the Seagulls ahead after 37 minutes. Spurs then had Rachel Williams sent off before Victoria Williams added a second four minutes from time. Kit Graham pulled a goal back but the hosts held on for three points.
Arsenal have kept their control atop the WSL by beating Everton 3-0, onto five wins in a row
Chelsea moved up to second on goal difference with a 2-0 victory over Leicester. The Blues had to wait until the 83rd minute for their first goal, with Pernille Harder converting from inside the box. Fran Kirby finished off a counter-attack to make it 2-0 in stoppage time.
Reading got their first points of the season as they thrashed Aston Villa 3-0. All three goals came in the first half with Amalie Eikeland, Rachel Rowe and Natasha Dowie on target.
Birmingham are also off the mark after they came from behind to draw 1-1 with West Ham. Claudia Walker opened the scoring in the 54th minute against her former club after a solo run resulted in a top-corner finish, before Louise Quinn bundled home at a corner.
EVERTON TAKE THE JAB
1: Everton boss Willie Kirk says he is ‘massively encouraging’ his players to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and revealed the majority of his squad have been double-jabbed. ‘We’re not 100 per cent but we’re very close to it, some of them are for timing reasons,’ he said. ‘It’s bad enough picking up a few knocks, never mind missing players through Covid.’
2: Former England international Fern Whelan has been appointed as the first executive for equality, diversity and inclusion in women’s football. Whelan, who played for Everton, Liverpool, Notts County and Brighton, told BBC Sport: ‘I want to make sure the WSL is at the top of its game in comparison to the men. Anything they get, we should get. That equality is massive.’
3: Seven players from the WSL have been nominated for the women’s Ballon d’Or. Chelsea have five nominees: Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Magdalena Eriksson and Jessie Fleming. Manchester City’s Ellen White and Arsenal’s Vivianne Midema make up the shortlist.
4: A 4,000-strong crowd watched Liverpool beat Sheffield United 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday, setting a record for an attendance at a Women’s Championship game. Though they were not able to give their home supporters something to cheer, the Blades deserve great credit for their promotion of the game and others would do well to follow their example.
5: England legends Fara Williams, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Chelsea boss Emma Hayes are the first inductees into the WSL’s Hall of Fame, which was set up to mark the 10-year anniversary of the league. Hayes has accumulated more wins than any manager in WSL history and has won three titles.