'We know how big it potentially could be': City earns bragging rights in first women's Manchester Derby

    Manchester City players celebrate Caroline Weir's winning goal.

    Manchester, England (CNN)All bitter rivalries have their beginnings, a match or moment that sparks decades-long tussles for bragging rights between sets of fans.

    For Manchester City and Manchester United's women's sides, theirs began Saturday at the Etihad Stadium in what was the first professional local derby between the two teams.
    More than 31,000 fans -- a huge Women's Super League (WSL) record by over 25,000 -- were present for the historic meeting, a match that will be remembered in particular for a moment of individual brilliance courtesy of Caroline Weir.
      The City midfielder's stunning long-range strike at the start of the second half was enough to give her side a narrow victory and write her name in derby day folklore.
      "It was an honor to be involved in the derby today and create a little bit of history," the Scot told CNN after the win. "It's obviously the first professional one -- I thought it felt like a derby and the fans were excellent, both sides created an atmosphere.
      "We'd like to thank them for their support. It was a great occasion and hopefully one we can build on going forward and I'm sure the next one will be even bigger."
      If a cross-city divide wasn't enough to stoke the fires in a very first local derby, then Manchester United's starting lineup also featured three former City players.
      Jane Ross, Ella Toone and Abbie McManus, who spent 12 years at City across two difference spells and came through the club's youth system, have all swapped blue for red.
      Abbie McManus tackles Janine Beckie during the Manchester derby.
      McManus is a self-confessed United fanatic and only moved to the club this summer, meaning her first match in the famous red shirt was in the derby she spent her childhood attending as a fan.
      "One of my closest friends with England is (City midfielder) Keira Walsh and she's always been a Blue and I've always been a Red," McManus told CNN.
      "So the rivalry there was definitely key, we have a laugh and some banter, but when we get on the pitch I know she's Blue and she knows I'm Red so it is important.
      "Obviously she's got one up on me now and we'll hope, either in the Continental Cup or the return fixture, we can get one back. I definitely wanted Manchester to be red today and unfortunately it's not, it's blue, so we have to suffer with that."
      Jackie Groenen, one of United's marquee summer signings following her performance for the Netherlands at the Women's World Cup, felt the fixture already had the intensity of a derby.
      "It definitely felt like that for me," she said. "It's nice to see all these people out and creating that atmosphere in the stadium."

      Huge growth

      Attendances in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) -- the United States' top domestic league -- have received a huge boost since the USWNT's World Cup triumph, increasing by 70% compared to pre-tournament figures.
      Last month, the Portland Thorns set a new club and league attendance record when 25,218 fans filled a sold-out Providence Park for a 2-1 win over North Carolina Courage.
      Despite England losing in the semifinal against the US, similar attendance spikes are expected this side of the Atlantic for the opening weekend of the Women's Super League (WSL).
      The English Football Association (FA), which governs the WSL, scheduled the opening day of the season during the men's international break to capitalize on the enthusiasm for women's football shown by the public during the World Cup.
      A peak of 11.7 million viewers tuned in to watch England's defeat to the US on the BBC, Britain's public service broadcaster, making it the highest-viewed television broadcast so far this year.
      Manchester City players mob Caroline Weir after her goal.
      And these figures didn't include those who watched online or in public spaces such as pubs and parks, the organization said.
      "The amount of people that watched us against the USA is unbelievable," England and Manchester City captain Steph Houghton told CNN.
      "[It is] the most watched TV program in the whole of this year, which is an amazing stat considering women's football is not the top sport in England, so us being successful allows people to be interested in us.
      "We're in the right direction, we're going forward, we're pushing on the sport and people are looking at us as footballers, not just women's footballers as well."
      Should the FA and WSL continue to successfully capitalize on the interest in women's football, early indications point to last season's league-wide attendance average of under 1,000 for each game being vastly exceeded.
      The organization has set up a free streaming platform, called the FA Player, that will show every WSL game this season live -- a "massive" step, Houghton says -- while the BBC will televise one top-flight game every weekend.
      This season is also the first of a three-year partnership the league has signed with Barclays, a deal widely reported to be in excess of £10 million ($12.3M) -- including a £500,000 ($614,200) prize pot -- and the WSL's first ever title sponsor.
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