Sheffield United: The startling figures behind tonight’s FA Women's Championship clash between Carla Ward’s side and Manchester United

The back story to tonight's match at the Olympic Legacy Park, which pits Sheffield United Women against their namesakes from Manchester, confirms that financial disparity between clubs of supposedly equal standing is not the sole preserve of men's football.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 15:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 15:07 pm
Sheffield United Women's manager Carla Ward: Harry Marshall/Sportimage

The visitors from the North-West, despite only raising a team at the beginning of the season, have handed Casey Stoney a £600,000 budget to try and gain promotion from the Championship. United, who were also awarded membership of the newly designed division, run their squad on around a 10th of that amount. 

But, as she prepares her players for battle, Carla Ward believes the opposition's resources should inspire them rather than intimidate. And, in a move torn straight from Chris Wilder's coaching handbook, the 35-year-old is determined to go straight for the jugular. Not sit deep and hope to grab something on the break.

The match takes place at the Olympic Legacy Park tomorrow (Kick-off 7pm): Harry Marshall/Sportimage

"We've spoken about our plan," Ward said. "We don't want it to be an exercise in damage limitation. That's not the attitude we want. We want to go and have a battle with them, to try and find them out."

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At the beginning of the campaign, after impressing the Football Association with their development strategy and long-standing investment in youth, Ward spoke to her newly assembled side and reminded them what it means to wear the red and white stripes.

"We're playing for Sheffield United," she told them at the time. "And Sheffield United is no ordinary club."

It is a message which will have struck a chord with Wilder, a lifelong United supporter, whose passion and tactical acumen has propelled his charges to second in the table.

Sheffield United Women are preparing to face Manchester United: Harry Marshall/Sportimage

One of those, defender Jack O'Connell, is likely to be among the crowd (kick-off 7pm) because his partner, England left-back Alex Greenwood, plays for Stoney.

"Listen, we're not the biggest or most physical team out there," Ward said. "We're not a group that wants to go out there and kick people.

"We try and play good stuff, the right way if you like, but that doesn't mean to say you can't do it with attitude."

"That's something we want to take into this one," she continued. "To do what we do and try to impose ourselves on the fixture. Give it everything we've got, because that mind set underpins everything."

Sheffield United Women have devised an intriguing game plan for the match: Harry Marshall/Sportimage

United, ranked eighth, were beaten 3-0 when they travelled to Leigh Sports Village earlier this term, with Katie Zelem, Kirsty Hanson and substitute Lizzie Arnot, a Scotland international, writing their names on the scoresheet.

Despite the result, Ward said: "Looking back, although we don't enjoy getting beaten, I actually thought it was one of our better performances. We were solid, we competed and we stuck to our guns. There was plenty we could take away with us."

Eleven days earlier, Stoney's team had beaten Aston Villa 12-0. United faced their rivals from the Midlands in the FA Cup last weekend, leading 3-1 during the closing stages before eventually losing 5-3 on penalties.

"We're hoping this is going to be our first sell-out at the OLP," Ward said. "It should be a great occasion and it's one we want to savour."