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.Visit CNN.com/sport for more news and fixturesRead More”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.”READ: Could Gareth Bale be Real Madrid unlikely hero this season?Huge growthAttendances 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.”READ: Liverpool’s European kings honored in FIFPro World XIShould 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.The previous WSL record crowd of 5,265 — set during Arsenal’s title-clinching match against Brighton last season — is set to increase eightfold with a near-sellout crowd at Chelsea men’s 41,000-capacity Stamford Bridge stadium.The two teams line up prior to the historic first meeting between the Manchester clubs.The women’s side welcomes newly-promoted Tottenham Hotspur Women on Sunday for one of two big local derbies this weekend.The other was the tantalizing first WSL meeting between City and United, which was reformed two seasons ago after a 13-year hiatus.However, both sides will be without star players from last season. Exciting winger Nikita Parris and left-back Alex Greenwood were signed by European powerhouse Lyon from City and United respectively, proving the lure of football on the continent will be another obstacle for the WSL to navigate in its quest for growth.United joined Spurs in promotion from the second tier last season — with Yeovil Town going in the opposite direction — to increase the number of teams in the WSL to 12, the most in the competition’s history.Derby DayIt was one of those former City players, Ross, who went closest to scoring in the first half. Katie Zelem had been conducting play brilliantly for United and threaded an exquisite ball down the line to find Leah Galton.The 25-year-old’s cross found Ross unmarked in front of goal but goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, in to replace injured No. 1 Karen Bardsley, pulled off a stunning save to deny her.READ: Romelu Lukaku racially abused by Cagliari fansMany had expected this to be a tricky but, ultimately, comfortable match for City to win but thus far United had created by far the better chances.Galton and Ross combined again just minutes later and this time is took a wild, desperate lunge from Gemma Bonner to prevent Jessica Sigsworth from getting anything on the ball.It took 25 minutes to get the first sense of what could be to come in this fixture, as City’s frustration bubbled over following a rash United challenge.”I think it [the rivalry] might potentially take a while, obviously it’s the first game and the more we play each other it’s going to get that little bit more intense,” City captain Houghton told CNN after the match. Manchester United men’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in attendance.”We took it seriously, we knew it was a big derby, we wanted to make sure that Manchester remained blue and we certainly did that. So we’re happy in terms of the win and the three points.”Playing for Manchester City, I knew how much the fans wanted us to win and for us as players we know how big it potentially could be, so we wanted to give a professional performance and make sure we had the three points.”City did eventually conjure up a chance after a nice flowing move just before halftime, but Weir’s strike from the edge of the area made its way comfortably into the arms of United keeper Mary Earps.Houghton had previously stressed the importance of her side playing attractive football to help grow the league — “we have a massive part to play by playing football the right way, making the games entertaining,” she said — but so far it was her side being passed off the pitch.It felt as though only one of these teams was treating the match as a true derby and, in truth, City will have been relieved to hear the half time whistle.However, whatever City manager Nick Cushing said to the team at half time had the desired effect, as Weir rifled home the winner with little more than two minutes gone in the second half.City’s young star Georgia Stanway admitted the team “were not ourselves in the first half,” which she believes only served to create early extra tension between the sides, though she knows a fierce rivalry will take time.Manchester City captain Steph Houghton celebrates at full time.”From the off there’s always going to be that little rivalry with it being Manchester clubs and with a lot of [former] City players playing for Manchester United,” she told CNN after the win. “There are a lot of friendships going around so there’s automatically going to be that bit of banter and rivalry going on: ‘We’re going to beat you, we’re going to beat you,’ that kind of thing. “The rivalry will only grow and grow, and get bigger and bigger.”