“It’s the best feeling in the world to play football – it’s just amazing.”
Speaking from the blue side of the city’s state-of-the-art training facilities in East Manchester, Man City Women’s Ellen White is reminiscing about her impressively successful professional career that’s spanned nearly two decades ahead of what is always one of the most important fixtures in the calendar for any footballer – derby day.
No matter the city, no matter the player, derby matches are always known for having that extra competitive edge, and even though the want to win games is what drives clubs all season long, there’s just something about a derby victory.
This derby looks set to be even more special than most, though.
After coronavirus restrictions forced stadiums across the world to fall silent from March 2020, there’s only a couple of weeks to go now before people will be taking to their seats at the Academy Stadium for the Barclays FA Women’s Super League Manchester derby on Sunday 13 February, which is the first time fans will be allowed back inside City’s home ground for a derby day since 2019.
The chance to feed off the energy of the crowd once again, and to walk out to the cheers of ‘the best fans’ during the derby, is something White says she really can’t wait for.
Born into a football-loving family, Ellen White grew up playing for her father’s football academy in her Buckinghamshire hometown of Aylesbury, before she was spotted at the age of eight by scouts for the academy setup at North London club Arsenal, where she spent her youth career until she signed her first professional senior contract with rivals Chelsea in 2005.
The 32-year-old has played for several other big-name clubs during her career – including Leeds United, Notts County, Birmingham City, and a return to Arsenal – all before joining Manchester City on an initial two-year deal in July 2019.
The ‘super patriotic’ player has shone on the international stage with England too, earning over 100 caps, and being an integral part of the 2019 Women’s World Cup squad, and Team GB squad for the 2012 Olympics.
Ahead of the Manchester derby, The Manc got the chance to sit down with White to chat about all things City, her time at the club so far, the best advice she’s ever been given, life outside the world of football, and how she’s feeling about the biggest game of the season in just under three weeks’ time.
“Playing for Man City is a privilege”
The Premier League domination and numerous title-winning successes of Manchester City’s Men’s Team over the last decade or so has earned the club a sought-after reputation as being a destination where the world’s top players want to be.
The Women’s Team is certainly no different – and White recognises this privilege.
“The passion that the fans have for the club is one that’s really special. That one club mentality is something that not a lot of clubs around the world have, with the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team collectively, so I think that’s really important.
“Coming to City, a lot of people speak about the facilities – which are incredible – but for me, it was about being surrounded by talented players who have the same mindset, the same competitiveness, the same drive, and the want to win.
“I’m really lucky that the players we have here, have that. We’re all constantly trying to push each other, and drive to hopefully succeed,” she said.
Joining Manchester City back in the summer of 2019, just before the 2019/2020 season, meant that White had experienced ‘a good chunk’ of time playing for the club and getting to know her teammates before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the football world, like the rest of the world, completely changed – which she says made her realise the club is ‘a real special place to be’ and one she feels ‘very lucky’ to play for.
“I signed just after the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and I was out for a little bit with injury, but I came back in just after that and had quite a big chunk before the pandemic,” she tells us.
“It was a real nice time to be in with the group and in the facilities before it hit.”
“Scoring against Man United is always nice”
Having experienced so much with the club over the past two-and-a-half seasons – from personal highs and lows, to injury set-backs, and group successes – it’s easy to see why White would find it difficult to pick just one stand-out moment from during her time with Manchester City.
She highlights trophy wins, temporary captaincy when Steph Houghton was sidelined with injury, teammate camaraderie, and scoring against the red rivals as definitely being up there, though.
“Obviously winning the FA Cup was great,” she explains.
“It was just a shame that we didn’t have fans there, but it’s such a special occasion. I’m super patriotic as well, not just with playing for England, but in the sense that the FA Cup is such a major trophy and one that we do everything we can to be a part of, so it was a really amazing thing to win that as a Man City player.”
“Scoring against Man United is always nice too,” she quips with a grin on her face.
“And I enjoy collectively having that team banter in the changing room that you probably don’t see that often.”
“There’s some pretty crazy music going on in the changing room”
White admits that a typical match day for her is “pretty chilled”.
Depending on what time kick-off is, and whether they are playing at home or away, she prefers to grab a bit of a lie-in if she can, tuck into some breakfast – “I always have porridge with honey and fruit, that’s one thing I try and keep the same,” – and of course, grab a coffee, which she says ‘a key one’ for pretty much all the players.
“We head to the stadium about an hour and a half before kick-off to have a bit of a team meeting, and then we’re straight to the changing rooms,” she explains.
She also revealed that there’s some ‘pretty crazy’ music coming out of the speakers in the changing rooms that “everyone seems to like but me”, but she says she’s happy to let everyone else enjoy it if it gets them into the right headspace before stepping out onto the pitch.
“I think it’s great that we feel comfortable to be ourselves”
Personal superstitions and little pre-match rituals seem to be commonplace in professional sport, although White admits that she’s had to get rid of some of those with experience as the years have gone on, otherwise “it would’ve been taking me four hours to get ready for a game”.
But she does make sure to praise the culture of the club and the players for allowing everyone to be themselves in the changing room.
“What makes our changing room really cool is that everyone’s different and everyone’s themselves,” she tells us enthusiastically.
“Everyone has their own superstitions and rituals, and I think that’s great.”
“I’m probably the most boring person in this squad”
A self-confessed homebody who prefers to stay within the comfort of her own four walls with her husband and two cats, or make the most of the “lovely walks” near her home when she’s not in training or giving it her all on the football pitch, White hilariously confesses that she’s “probably the most boring person” in the City squad – but did point to the pandemic for throwing a spanner in the works when it comes to social lives.
“Obviously we’re living in a bit of a strange time at the moment, so we can’t really go out too much. But for me, it’s being able to go for a coffee or being able to go for brunch with my husband or friends if I’ve got a day off.”
“Seeing family is another one,” she stresses.
“It’s been hard to see them throughout the pandemic, but it’s always really special to get those moments together.”
“There’s so many people who’d love to do what we’re doing”
When the conversation turns to the best piece of advice she’s ever been given and what she’d share with the players of the future, White’s message is clear and concise – “just enjoy it”.
“Always have a smile on your face, and enjoy what you’re doing,” she tells us.
“Being a professional footballer is a real privilege, and there’s so many people who’d love to do what we’re doing, so for youngsters, I’d say work hard and definitely listen to your coaches, but just enjoy it – you’re making friends, you’re having fun, and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
“I always try to enjoy every single second.”
“We are not underestimating this derby”
White has played in many derby matches before in her career.
She understands the intense rivalries, and she understands how important it is for the club and the dedicated fans that they clinch the win, but this time around, when the Barclays FA WSL Manchester derby comes to the Academy Stadium, she is most looking forward to seeing people back in the stands.
“I think one of the most exciting things for us is to be playing at home and having our fans there to support us back in the stadium,” she explains.
“As much as we want everyone to stay safe and we understand why we couldn’t have fans in the stadium, for us, they really give us an extra edge and they give us energy, so it’s really special to have them back and to feel closer to them.”
“We just want them to enjoy it.”
While White does admit that she’d love the chance to show the fans her iconic goal celebration during next month’s match, and that it’s “lovely to see people recreating it with smiles on their faces”, she said that her main priority is to help the team get the win in any way she can ‘first and foremost’ – scoring a goal would just be an ‘amazing’ bonus.
She also conceded that the red side of the city have ‘good fans’ too.
“To be fair, Manchester United have good fans that are normally pretty loud too, but we’ve got the best fans, so that’s a winner,” she tells us.
“A derby day’s always feisty, it’s always competitive, and I think both sets of fans and staff understand what’s at stake because of the rivalry – but for us, we want Manchester to be blue, so that’s our priority.”
“We’re not underestimating this derby, so it’ll be a really exciting one for us.”
The Barclays FA Women’s Super League Manchester Derby is kicking-off at 12:30pm on Sunday 13 February 2022, and tickets are available from £8 for adults and from £3 for Under 16’s.
Manchester City are expecting a packed crowd for the game, with tickets selling fast.
You can grab yours from the Manchester City website here.
Featured Image – Manchester City
The thousands of hours it takes to perfect making some of the best sushi in Manchester
We’d wager if you took a survey of people on the street in Manchester and asked them what food they find most intimidating, a very big chunk of the answers would be sushi and raw fish.
But then again, most of them haven’t been to MUSU yet.
Listen, we get it, even tasting menus sometimes sound a touch upmarket and a bit out of their wheelhouse to some people, but this two AA Rosette-winning Japanese restaurant is helping make fine-dining and seafood experiences more accessible whilst delivering a truly unforgettable meal.
We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Head Sushi Chef André Aguiar after he served us MUSU’s ‘omakase’ tasting menu straight from the counter, which features some of the most amazing sushi, nigiri and all-round high-end produce we’ve ever come across. This guy knows his stuff.
Can you give us a brief overview of your background/journey as a chef?
I started my career in Brazil which was my home country. I was in the army and met a captain who was passionate about Japanese cuisine. After he introduced me to the world of Japanese culture and cuisine, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I then opened a Japanese restaurant in 2010 in Brazil and stayed there for two years before selling the restaurant in order to move to Ireland in order to learn English.
I met a Japanese master at Taste by Dylan McGrath in Dublin who wanted to retire and move back to Japan but the deal that he had with the owner of the restaurant was that he had to find a new head chef before he left so I started to train with him, he was very strict and it was really tough but I persevered for three years until I was ready to take over the head sushi chef position and was there for 4 years.
After Taste, I moved to Italy for 6 months to open a restaurant and train the staff then came back to Dublin in 2019 and continued to work there but then Covid hit and unfortunately they closed down due to the pandemic.
After the pandemic, I went to Portugal to open another restaurant and to train staff and when working there I was approached by the directors of MUSU who were on holiday there and were looking for a head sushi chef to join the team.
After they tried my tasting menu at the restaurant in Portugal, they offered me the position immediately, so I moved to the UK the next month and I’ve been here ever since.
Amazing. What was it that drew you to MUSU and the ‘omakase’ concept specifically?
The fact I was able to build a team from the ground up, develop a menu from scratch and work with the finest ingredients in the world.
At the end of the day, that’s what every chef wants.
Simple as that. What about your favourite sushi creation?
During the development of the menu at MUSU I was able to experiment with lots of different ingredients. While I can’t name one favourite creation the three stand-outs are the Chu-toro seared with Japanese charcoal; the carabinero prawn with miso butter and then the salmon with foie gras.
During development, I was able to create a selection of ‘Edomae’ nigiri that really pushes the boundaries of traditional Edo-style sushi — if you visit I’d recommend trying a few of them.
Yep, we can vouch for all three of those dishes. What advice would you give people new to sushi/seafood/tasting menus?
Most of the people who come here and say they are afraid to try raw fish or have usually had a bad experience with sushi due to low-quality ingredients. When they try it here, we always get asked why it is so different and why it is so good.
I always tell them the details behind the sushi we create including the ageing and curing process to improve flavour and texture as well as the rice quality, temperature and seasoning.
We use the best ingredients in all of our sushi, including the best sushi rice, nori seaweed; A5 wagyū beef; aged soy, aged vinegar and the freshest wasabi on the market shipped directly from Japan.
I always recommend that people just be open-minded when it comes to trying new things. Sometimes people have one bad experience and never venture into it again, whereas when people are open to new textures and flavours they have the best experience.
Absolutely. And if you had to describe the omakase experience in three words what would they be?
Literally translating to, “I’ll leave the details up to you”, that’s how we’d sum up the whole omakase experience: you get to watch a craftsman carefully examining every minute detail as he builds some of the most incredible seafood courses we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating right in front of your eyes.
Chef Andre is a master in every sense of the word and not only do you get to see his skills on show but his knowledge of the cuisine and pure passion come across as he explains each and every dish.
Every incredible ingredient is lovingly presented and you get to witness the clean, military-level precision and almost surgery-like operation unfold up close as the freshest of produce is turned into little plates of art. It’s quite fascinating to watch.
So if you’re guilty of being nervous try sushi and seafood in this kind of setting, there aren’t many better places to push the boat out and dip your toes in. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed — and better still, if you sign up for the MUSU Rewards scheme, you can get 30% off your food bill this March and even more throughout the year.
The 1975 prove they’re some of the best performers on the planet with homecoming gig at the AO Arena
Last night, The 1975 reminded Manchester and fans all over that they’re some of the very best performers on the planet when it comes to music right now, it’s that simple.
Not hyperbole, just an honest opinion from a fan who’s seen them multiple times now and has only seen them get bigger and better each time, not to mention become more impressive as all-round entertainers.
Managing to get a standing ticket to the first of their two packed-out nights at the AO Arena, almost exactly a year on from seeing them from the seated section in 2023, it’s fair to say that being in amongst it certainly played its part in somehow topping the previous and already unbelievable gig.
Dancing around like prats, shaking our knees and screaming our heads off; jumping up and down, and drinking in every drop of the serotonin-soaked atmosphere, we can’t remember many other shows that have genuinely got better with each second that passed — and it all started with an amazing support act.
Late last year, The Manc Audio had the pleasure of going along to see ever-rising Dirty Hit labelmates, The Japanese House, at New Century Hall where Amber Bain’s vocals nearly had us in tears and Saturday evening was no different.
Even in the space of just a couple of songs — the majority of which 1975 fans know pretty well too given how close the two acts are and certainly more than most supports usually enjoy the pleasure of when playing huge tours like this — we could fully envisage them headlining this arena themselves.
While The Japanese House is technically just Bain and her touring band, the record company’s influences, paired with production from Matty Healy himself and drummer George Daniel means that there are 1975 notes all over their sound, so it’s no surprise the two dovetail so well on a billing.
We were a bit gutted we didn’t get to see him come out and sing his part on ‘Sunshine Baby’ for their final song, but you can’t win ’em all. A very, very special singer-songwriter you should all be paying very close attention to.
As for the headliners themselves, while much of the set and stage design has remained pretty much the same from last year, the biggest difference right from the off was that Healy was on top form in every sense of the word, having played the previous AO Arena gig hopped up on Lemsip and red wine.
We didn’t think his voice sounded too far from its best in 2023 anyway, but it’s safe to say that everyone benefitted from him looking visibly healthier and perhaps a little less tipsy than last time, and the well-delivered vocals from minute one made the super cinematic opening credits feel even more considered.
And while there were plenty more of those movie-like scripted moments throughout the show and clever uses of the set (we’re not going to spoil too much), this latest iteration of the live set still has the same gorgeous aesthetic but now feels like just the right amount of abstract.
That being said, we don’t think anyone was expecting to see the Marmite frontman suddenly appear from a platform rising out of the ground and start singing the stripped-down version of ‘I Like America’ to a naked waxwork of himself…
Seeing The 1975 is now just as much of a visual experience as it is a musical one.
But this was all part of what made the performance special last time and again last night. It isn’t just the joy of kicking the crowd off with those 80s-infused bangers they’re so good at like ‘Looking For Somebody to Love’ and ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ — it’s all the other stuff around it.
The fact of the matter is, we have genuinely never seen shows like the kind that The 1975 write; they swing from well-rehearsed and thought-provoking to hugging your mate as you sway together before the whole arena suddenly turns into one big dancefloor and you’re just partying again. It’s seamless.
It might not be Pink doing a dozen backflips as she flies across the air in a harness at Bolton Stadium with loads of pyros and dance routines (though we did get the Love It We Made It choreography, back by popular demand), but these lot have come a long way from just drinking wine and smoking fags as they play the hits. It definitely feels like the rest of the band all had their hero moments this time too.
From saxophonist John Waugh shining in multiple spotlighted moments, Healy introducing bassist Ross MacDonald to the “ladies, especially” and more, they all had their hero moments. A special shout-out to the truly wonderful session player Polly Mooney as well, who took the lead on ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ and smashed her ‘About You’ bridge. She’s far from just a backing player, believe us.
The sax is such a big part of their sound now.Polly has quickly become a fan favourite.
Playing a little something from every era as we hoped they would, adding in a few older tracks into the setlist compared to the previous tour, there weren’t many moments as happiness-inducing as bouncing around to ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’, ‘The Sound’ and, well, ‘Happiness’. Pure euphoria.
There was also plenty of catharsis in there too, as we also got cult classics like ‘Robbers’ and ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, as well as probably the saddest and yet still the funkiest slow jam in ‘Somebody Else’.
We have no shame in admitting we welled up during a few, but you’ll just have to see which ones may or may not set you off.
As alluded to, there are plenty of surprises in store over the course of the 26-track and roughly two-and-a-half-hour set, and we also enjoyed the Wilmslow group giving a nod to their old stomping grounds like Satan’s Hollow and Deaf Institute where they headed for the afterparty. They’re local lads as far as we’re concerned.
1975 gigs require non-stop energy and Manchester crowds never disappoint.
For the last two tours or so now, Healy has somewhat flippantly referred to The 1975 as “the best band in the world” up on stage and while being a bit cocky and braggadocious is far from new territory for the self-proclaimed nepo baby, we’re starting to take that claim more seriously each time.
The 34-year-old has been a controversial figure in music for a good long while now and understandably so — he certainly hasn’t always hit the mark as a ‘character’ and sometimes says things we don’t agree with, whether sardonic or not — but what it comes down to is him being a showman first and foremost.
Better still, he took a lot of the recent criticism for his comments and on-stage antics and pivoted to write almost all of it into this new show in a genuinely interesting way. Finding rockstars that have just as much self-awareness as they do self-obsession is pretty rare but, above everything else, the group as a whole have created a truly incredible live experience. On their art alone, they’re up there with the best.
For anyone going along to night two of The 1975’s Manchester homecoming at the AO Arena this Sunday, if the band bring even half of the energy and charisma that they did one night one, you’ll be in for an absolute treat and we’ll jump at every chance we get to see them again – so should you.
This pretty much sums everything up you can expect from The 1975 in Manchester.