RUBY MACE'S Leicester loan move from Manchester City last term is a choice she regards as one of the best of her blossoming career.
The 20-year-old's displays during the five-month switch helped the Foxes win their fight for top-flight survival.
Among her memorable matches was a tireless midfield shift against Liverpool in April, with Leicester's 4-0 win lifting them out of the drop zone.
It was one of the efforts that earned the versatile defender praise from Man City boss Gareth Taylor, who sees her playing in a more advanced role for his side.
Mace admitted: "Going to Leicester was probably one of the best decisions that I made in that moment of time.
"I needed game time, I needed to expose myself to the WSL.
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"Just coming off the back of a long thigh injury, I needed minutes — and I'm just grateful to (Leicester boss) Willie Kirk for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to showcase my ability.
"Coming back to City this season, my goals are straightforward.
"I want to prove myself to the team and I want to be able to get myself a place in the team.
"Playing in the bigger games, especially last season with Leicester, knowing that we're under so much pressure, it gives you confidence for going into big games, like we have on the weekend."
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Such experiences could serve Mace well should she feature against Manchester United in a high-stakes WSL derby showdown at Old Trafford later
Matches do not come much bigger than City's trip to the Theatre of Dreams in front of a crowd of-strong crowd.
Mace's side are targeting a return to winning ways after two straight defeats.
These include an unexpected 1-0 home loss to Brighton that leaves them six points behind leaders Chelsea and knowing another loss would dent their title chances.
The London-born player added: "Everyone has off-games. It's just about picking ourselves back up, and we have a big game ahead of us."
Mace, who began her football journey in Arsenal's academy and trained with the Gunners' Under-15 boys, has played in two league games for City this term.
The former England Under-17 skipper, who made ten WSL appearances at Leicester, is eyeing more minutes with the Cityzens.
And while she would relish taking to the field against United tomorrow, she is ready to roar her team-mates on from the sidelines if needed.
Mace, who joined City from the Gunners in June 2021, added: "You can't guarantee you will get on the pitch but I guess it's going to be down to the state of the game.
"If it's the right thing to do then it will be the right thing to do to bring me on.
''But if it's not, I'll support that 100 per cent and give all my energy from the sidelines."
This year has seen Mace and a few other City starlets, including Jess Park, rise through the ranks for club and country.
Among them is best pal Khiara Keating, 19, who received her first senior England call-up last month.
Keeper Keating could make history as the first shot-stopper from a mixed-race background to play in the Lionesses' senior side.
Mace said: "It's an honour to see your friends doing well.
"I only ever want the best for Khiara, and I feel she only ever wants the best for me.
"Just to have that support system where I can speak to her on a friend level.
''She'll be real with me in situations where I need her to be real. We just bounce off each other.
"Khiara said she wants to be the best Khiara Keating and I want to be the best Ruby Mace."
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