Nikita Parris walking out at the Emirates Stadium
Nikita Parris is Manchester United’s top scorer this season with eight goals in the Women’s Super League

Manchester United forward Nikita Parris says they can compete with rivals Manchester City but they need to learn from previous experiences in the derby.

They go head-to-head at Etihad Stadium on Saturday with 12 points separating City and fourth-placed United.

But Parris, 30, hopes United can show the quality which helped them finish as Women’s Super League runners-up last season and cause an upset.

“As a team we need to step up and grow,” Parris told BBC Sport.

“I don’t think we have to show, tell or overhype our qualities in the team. We’ve shown we can compete against the likes of City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

“We just have to replicate performances we’ve had in the past against Manchester City. All our games have been competitive but in big moments we’ve lacked experience and it’s cost us.”

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United drew 1-1 with City the last time the sides met at the Etihad and beat them at Leigh Sports Village in May. But City got revenge when they won 3-1 at Old Trafford this season and later beat them in the League Cup.

Marc Skinner’s side have slipped down the table since then, with Parris admitting they have been “naive” in big moments.

“I think the key word is consistency. We were competing last year. This year we haven’t maintained those high standards,” added Parris.

“It’s alright being up there and competing for one season but you have to be up there consistently. That’s where we need to push forward as a team. It won’t happen overnight but that’s our aim.

“We’re definitely not where we want to be. The reality is we need points to go on our side and games out of our control to go our way. We have to take care of business and, in all honesty, we haven’t, especially in the big games.

“These are all learning curves. The club’s existence has only been six years. It’s a really small time frame in which you’ve got to get up to speed and be ready to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.

“They have had a longer establishment in the league but also have quality in depth of squad and players. It all counts in the end. But we don’t make excuses. We just continue to fight for each other every single day and work hard. We want to push this club forward.”

‘England will always be an ambition of mine’

Despite United’s season not going to plan, Parris has enjoyed success individually.

She has netted eight goals in 15 appearances, averaging a goal every 115 minutes – bettered only by her 2018-19 season at Manchester City – while her conversion rate (26.7%) is the most prolific in her career.

It has led to fresh calls for her to be included in the England squad for Euro 2025 qualifiers next month, having narrowly missed out on selection in February.

“I want to play for my country and represent England at the highest level in games, qualifiers and tournaments. That will always be an ambition of mine until I retire,” said Euro 2022 winner Parris, who has 71 caps for England.

“I just want to keep going. The easiest thing for me to have done was to give up. I could have made them think ‘she’s not fighting for it’ so I just want to get my head down and do well for Manchester United.”

Nikita Parris stats in the WSL in the 2023-24 season
Nikita Parris has only scored more goals in two previous seasons in her career, where she played over 1480 minutes in each

Parris has played for some of the biggest clubs in her career, joining United from Arsenal, having had previous spells at Lyon, Manchester City and Everton. But she feels she has grown with experience and was able to settle at United quicker than expected.

“I think I’ve been able to understand, over time, the players I’m around,” said Parris.

“I wanted to hit the ground running but the reality was I haven’t played with some of these players before so it was always going to take time. I was never worried. I’ve always said I would get here; it would just take a little bit more time.

“But here at Manchester United I feel like it’s hasn’t taken as long as it has at other clubs. I think that’s just the camaraderie of the girls on and off the pitch. We have an unbelievable connection that I haven’t quite experienced in any other team. It’s just different.”

United will need to draw on that this weekend when they face a City side chasing a first WSL title since 2016 and in great form.

“[That defeat at] Old Trafford explained everything to me in terms of the feistiness of the derby,” said Parris.

“They will be up for it, we will be up for it and it will be a great spectacle. I’ve been trying to sort out tickets for family members who are excited for the game. I think there’s been a general buzz.

“It means a lot to players here like Ella Toone and Katie Zelem – players who have been here a long time and seen the club grow from the bottom upwards. It means a lot to them so it means a lot to me.”

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