Manchester City Women’s exit from the Champions League came as a huge shock. More so because this was just at the qualifying round. Having reached the quarter-final last season, it’s a step backwards to be eliminated even before the start of the main competition this time around.
After investing so much over the years to build a team that can compete for trophies both locally and on the continent, the side should be doing much better now. To be dumped out of such a prestigious competition by newcomers Real Madrid is just not acceptable.
This is not the men’s team, of course. Unlike the men’s team that is vastly experienced with 13 Champions League trophies, the women’s team is still new to the game. The side was formed last year and is making a debut in the competition.
City on the other hand was quickly becoming one of the best women’s teams in the world, after making good progress in the last several years. But failure to make it past even the qualifying round of the Champions League is a huge setback on that journey. The team suffered a surprise 0-1 second leg defeat to the Spanish side at the Academy Stadium on Wednesday.
After drawing 1-1 in the reverse fixture, the Blues were eliminated on a 2-1 aggregate score. That’s such a shame given the expectations on this team.
Former manager Nick Cushing did a good job with the side establishing it as one of the Women’s Super League heavyweights. He won several trophies with the team in his six years in charge.
Among his six trophies collected in that period were doubles in 2016 and 2019. But since lifting the WSL title in 2016, the team has been playing second fiddle in the division. After successive years of coming second, he moved to New York City FC last year.
Gareth Taylor’s appointment as his replacement was seen as a fresh start. The new manager has also secured the same position in his two seasons in charge. Given the promise made when he was promoted from the Under-18s to take over from Cushing, Taylor is expected to take the team to the next level.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with some great people within Manchester City and the Club’s Academy so far, but I’m absolutely relishing my new role within City Football Group and I’ll be giving everything I have to continue Manchester City’s success and growth in the women’s game,” - Taylor said in an interview shortly after taking over.
But has the team really grown in the last year and four months that he has been in charge? City came up short in both the league and Champions League last term and they couldn’t have started the new campaign any worse.
The chance to play Champions League football is gone.
The manner of the elimination begs the question: Is Taylor the right man to take this team to the next level?
One of the reasons for the success of the men’s team is coaching. Having a top-class manager is always important for a team to excel and that’s what Pep Guardiola offers. Chelsea Women didn’t just win the league and reach the Champions League final last term because they have good players. The team is also well coached.
It appears that’s what needs to happen at the Academy Stadium for things to improve. Taylor will have to step up his game to make up for this disappointment.
With the huge investments already made if at the end of this season the team still winds up with no silverware, it’ll be a clear indication where the problem really lies. There may be a need for change at the dugout.