Liverpool Women 0-1 Manchester United Women: New era starts with win for Casey Stoney's side
Manchester United Women began their new era after a 13-year absence with a 1-0 win against Liverpool Women in the Continental Tyres Cup.
United, who disbanded their senior women's team in February 2005 as it was deemed not to be part of the club's "core business", made a winning start thanks to Scotland international Lizzie Arnot's back-post finish with just eight minutes to go.
It marked a successful return for United manager Casey Stoney to her former club, after she was given the job of creating a squad and a team just weeks before the season.
Her new-look team showed they will be a tough proposition in the FA Women's Championship this season with this win against higher division opposition.
"They stuck together," Stoney told BBC Radio 5 live. "For a team that has only been together for six weeks they weathered the storm quite well.
"I recruited from the second tier, they've stepped up and shown they are more than capable of playing a level above that.
"There's no pressure from the club to get promotion but these players want to be playing in the top flight. They're history makers now."
Liverpool, who had their own summer of upheaval with the arrival of new head coach Neil Redfearn and 12 departures to replace, might have levelled had Christie Murray's free-kick not struck a post and bounced out late on.
Among those 12 exits were seven players that moved along the M62 to United, notably England full-back Alex Greenwood and goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain who played key roles in the victory with an assist and key saves in particular.
"If you look at the resources Manchester United have got, for us to come out and put on a performance like that is a great achievement." Redfearn told BBC Sport.
"We're eight weeks in the making, we put a good squad together, we're two or three players short which we'll have a look at in the next transfer window, and we've put together a side that's capable of competing."
Fresh face versus old head
The late winner was a huge fillip for Stoney, who along with assistant Willie Kirk, won the tactical battle against the experienced Redfearn.
It was strictly business for former England international Stoney, who only hung up the boots in February, as she emerged from the tunnel smiling in a suit to take her place in the dugout.
The 35-year-old was cool and calm on the bench, but still a vocal presence as she issued regular instructions to her side throughout.
Her opposite number Neil Redfearn donned shorts and a tracktop, and looked happy and relaxed for much of the game, but his side came away with nothing.
Rivalry: Was there spice on and off the field?
There was an enthusiastic crowd at Prenton Park to cheer on both sides, although the nature of the singing was aimed towards encouragement rather than antagonising any opponents.
Fans mixed without incident in the stands, but the crowd of 829 in a 16,500-capacity stadium made it difficult to create an atmosphere.
On the field, it was fiercely competitive and spirited but that, it could be argued, was down to the competitive nature of two well-assembled, well-matched sides rather than any derby fervour.
"There was a bit of spice in the game," United boss Stoney added. "I used to play for them and recruited heavily from their team.
"It is pleasing but you want to beat any team whether it's Liverpool or Reading who we play next week, you want to go out, perform and get points on the board."
Despite the hard tackling and committed challenges, the only card to be shown went to United's teenage midfielder Lauren James for leaving the field too slowly on her substitution.
What can United take away from the game?
On this evidence against an extremely competitive top-flight side, Manchester United Women will be a second-tier force this term.
The top level experience of ex-Juventus playmaker Katie Zelem, Greenwood and Chamberlain showed in a composed performance and will prove useful to a squad with an average age of 21, while the most exciting prospect proved to be 16-year-old midfielder James who shone in the hurly-burly of midfield.
Stoney was able to persuade the Arsenal academy talent to swap north London for the north west, and her selection suggested regular game-time will be available going forward.
Is this the start of a new rivalry?
With Manchester City already well established as a Women's Super League force, the presence of a second Manchester club can only add to the spice, but United will have to wait at least a year before the prospect of regular matches against the likes of Liverpool and City.
There is every chance of progress in the cups, which would generate the possibility of such rivalries being further developed, and success would certainly make United a team to pique the interest of their more established neighbours.