Chelsea 1-3 Manchester United
Antonio Valencia, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov scored to give Manchester United a well deserved win against Premier League Champions Chelsea in the Community Shield.
Chelsea have had a woeful pre-season and even though United were without numerous players, they proved just too good on the day. Paul Scholes had the first real opportunity, blazing a shot over the bar, before Wayne Rooney dragged a shot wide of the goal with Michael Owen unable to convert it at the far post. Chelsea’s main efforts came from range but barely tested Edwin van der Sar; with half time approaching, the Red Devils made sure their first half dominance got its reward.
Paul Scholes was exceptional all afternoon and his raking cross field pass found Rooney wide. Rooney had dragged Terry out of position and seemed in a dead end alley, but his ball across to Valencia was sublime. The Ecuador winger had a simple task but he did it well, lifting it over Hilario.
Changes at half time saw Owen and Rooney replaced by Berbatov and Chicharito with Nani on for Park. Wholesale substitutions in this showpiece are not uncommon but two things were interesting; bringing two forwards on meant starting and ending with a bold 4-4-2 system against a packed, experienced midfield. Normally Sir Alex would go man for man in the 4-3-3 but “trust” in his players is the buzz phrase at present, that trust was further exampled by the introduction of Nani at the expense of the workhorse Park.
The gauntlet was thrown down to Berbatov and the “Little Pea” and both accepted their invitations to showcase their talents. Chicharito was the beneficiary of Scholes’ range of passing while Berbatov was more applied than usual – the combination at times was a little fractured, though at times did seem to flash into life. After Chicharito had wildly missed a volley his next completely unconventional shot found the net. Valencia turned provider as he was so often last season and the Mexican’s connection rebounded off his face and rolled into the goal.
Chelsea did then apply some pressure as United introduced Chris Smalling (who looked comfortable in his few minutes on the pitch) and Ryan Giggs. Van der Sar was forced into two good saves but it was from one of his parries that Kalou halved the deficit – with the game in injury time, however, a brief spell of “ole” football was majestically capped off with a Nani chipped pass and a clever, lofted shot from Berbatov from 20 yards.
Little can be taken from the game; but United looked sharp and the supporters are yet to see Rooney and Chicharito line up together. Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were excellent in tandem while Valencia’s rise to super stardom seems to be continuing at the same incredible pace as it was last season. Fabio was fautless at full back until he was brought off, too. There are of course problems in there; Chelsea’s deep sitting positional play sometimes cried out for United to have a direct, attacking midfielder (Cleverley? Or, Ozil… even though it was denied by the highest source at the club, Ferguson’s post-match refusal to rule it out will no doubt inspire the filling of column inches tomorrow) and there was at times cause for concern with the lack of energy that you would associate more with an Anderson than a Carrick, as well as the much maligned midfielder did.
With both sides taking the game as seriously as you would hope rather than expect, it was certainly a good test – the performance and result will at least have some who had written us off before a ball was kicked putting their heads in their hands already. Manchester United mean business this season, that you can be sure of.
Ratings : van der Sar 8, O’Shea 7, Vidic 7, Evans 7, Fabio 8 (Smalling), Valencia 8, *Scholes 9, Carrick 8 (Giggs), Park 7 (Nani 7), Rooney 7 (Berbatov 8), Owen 6 (Chicharito 8 )