Cool heads and clinical finishing won the day for United in the feistiest game of their season so far.
For this Womens FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie United started as favourites with home advantage and being one level higher. Merseyrail Bootle, however, came into the game having only lost one league game in the 2016 calendar year including winning all 7 games this season so far and soon showed they are an emerging force on Merseyside.
Both sides observed a two-minute silence as part of Remembrance Sunday prior to kick-off, the only time the ground was quiet for the next two hours! The visitors were much the brighter side in the opening phase of the game and had several goal scoring chances. Stopping them was United 'keeper Kirsty Johnson, she was in excellent form, shot stopping and catching every high ball.
United took a while to settle to the high intensity of their opponents but set the tone for the game after 23 minutes. Kim Brown flighted a wide free-kick into the box and Rachel Ruddach was able to get a flick on it to put the home side ahead.
It was against the run of play but more of that was to come. Sophie Bell made it 2-0 just four minutes later with a superb strike over the 'keeper from the corner of the box. Having weathered the early storm United had taken their two good chances and built a lead.
Bootle continued to threaten and United dug in for a hard fight to keep their lead. Although broken up by a few niggles it was now a very competitive game with both sides not wanting to give an inch.
As the second half wore on the intensity and passion of the game was getting a little too much for some. After a penalty shout was turned down one member of the Bootle management team was sent off for verbal abuse aimed at the officials.
There was a real edge to the game yet the football was good from both sides. United centre-forward Tania Marsden had recovered after a heavy fall onto her shoulder and on 69 minutes powered away to finish well past the onrushing keeper for 3-0. United had made fewer chances but had been clinical in front of goal.
Still both teams were giving everything and Bootle pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go through Sophie Perry. With a place in the next round at stake and passions running high both on and off the pitch United battled to see the game out at 3-1.
United therefore were in the hat for the first round proper and drew Leicester City Women Development at home on 4th December.
Blades: Johnson, Brown, Neary, Cawthorn, Hopkinson, Bell, Ruddach, Hartley, Darbyshire (Smith), Pearson, Marsden. Unused: Wainwright, Hall.