Nikita Parris is itching to be part of a Manchester United team in the Champions League, and on Sunday she gets the chance to help her side reach the competition for the first time when they host neighbours Manchester City at Leigh Sports Village.
United sit in second spot in the Women’s Super League, one point behind leaders Chelsea and six ahead of fourth-placed City with two games to play. And while they could yet win the title if Emma Hayes’ Blues slip up between now and the end of the campaign, the Red Devils’ first target is to get the point they need to secure a top-three finish and a first ever trip to the Women’s Champions League.
And Parris tells The Sportsman that the chance to test themselves in Europe has been a huge goal all season long.
“The Champions League, as soon as you hear the music it gives you goosebumps,” the England winger explains. “It’s just a special competition, one in which every player wants to play. We’ve seen it this year with the Champions League, the quality that’s in it and the new format also gives you so many games to play.
“To be up against Europe’s best will show you where you are at as a club and where you need to get to, and that’s the next step for Manchester United as a club, both the women and the men.”
United have already put in a positive performance against their neighbours this season, controlling much of the Etihad Stadium encounter which eventually ended 1-1 after Laura Coombs’ second-half header cancelled out Leah Galton’s opener.
And Parris says United will take lots of encouragement out of their display in the return fixture when City come to the Leigh Sports Village this weekend.
“I feel confident. We had a good game with them at the Etihad in December and I think we should have won that game also. For 60-70 minutes we dominated Manchester City in their own back garden and when they come to Leigh on Sunday we’ll be ready.”
The Manchester derby gets underway at 6:45pm BST on Sunday, with live coverage on Sky Sports Football.