Manchester United came back from two goals down to beat Manchester City 3-2 in the Community Shield at Wembley – a scoring pattern that was reminiscent of the victory in the Autumn of 1993, when Roy Keane netted the winner in the dying seconds at Maine Road. Lescott opened the scoring from a set piece by heading the ball passed debutante David De Gea, before Edin Dzeko’s shot beat the young Spaniard for City’s second on the stroke of half time. Chris Smalling got United back in the game following a free kick from Ashley Young, delivered with precision to the edge of the six yard box – where the young right back volleyed home passed the helpless Joe Hart. United’s second was pure class, with some intricate passing on the edge of the box – Tom Cleverley’s pass put Nani in, who elegantly chipped the ball over the grounded Hart; United were back in the game. The game looked to be heading to penalties, before a long Rooney punt up the field following a City set piece was met by hesitance in the form of Kompany and Clichy – with neither taking responsibility for the bouncing ball – which allowed Nani to capitalise and have a one on one with Hart. Nani rounded the keeper, before slotting home the winner – cue hysteria and some erratic dancing.
Here we discuss the talking points from a very interesting and enjoying Community Shield at Wembley.
A new United
In the past eight months United have lost Owen Hargreaves, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Gary Neville – all, excusing the injury plagued Hargreaves and Brown over the passed few seasons, were key to the on going success of United over the years. Sir Alex Ferguson was quick to act and get new blood into the squad, with the early summer captures of Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea. Add into the mix Chris Smalling, who was extremely impressive in his debut season, Johny Evans, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck – Fergie has replaced the aging stars with youngsters – many of which have been groomed in the United way, picking up vital experience along the way.
The inclusion of Chris Smalling at right back over Rafael demonstrates the versatility of the young Englishman and the options available to Sir Alex Ferguson. Smalling was keen to get forward as often as possible and provide a creative outlet for Wayne Rooney to knock passes out to. His height is no doubt a massive bonus when facing a powerful side, physically, like City and he was key in getting United back into the game with his goal. Smalling was extremely impressive at centre half last season, when Ferdinand was injured midway through, alongside Nemanja Vidic and will no doubt becoming an intrical part of the United backline in years to come. His versatility will no doubt provide more competition for a right back spot – with both Rafael and Fabio battling it out with United’s number 12.
United’s substitutions at half time showed the confidence Sir Alex Ferguson has in his players, whilst also highlighting the options available to the United manager. The Scot was able to replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic with new signing Phil Jones and Johny Evans – with both impressing, despite some unusual ‘galloping’ (even if he made a superb tackle in the area to make up for relinquishing possession) up the field from the Irishman, midway through the second half. Jones was a commanding presence, reading the game well whilst putting in tackles. Tom Cleverley was brought on for the slightly sluggish Michael Carrick, and was a star performer in the second half and his assist for Nani’s first goal rounded off a superb move on the edge of City’s box. He used the ball extremely well throughout the forty-five minutes he was on the field, whilst keeping his shape when City were on a rare second half attack.
Mancini may believe that United are only ‘5 yards’ ahead of City in terms of quality, however on evidence of the game at Wembley – City have a way to go to match the blend of youth and experience that Sir Alex can call on throughout the squad.
David De Gea – Potential
I can only imagine the knee jerk reactions that were going through some Reds minds when Dzeko scored City’s second. Yes, David De Gea was at fault for the second goal (even if Vidic was slow to close down Dzeko) and it is debatable as to whether he could have come for the first (personally I don’t think he was at fault for the header). Yes, De Gea may have been longing for the blanket that covered him on his entrance to Old Trafford as he retrieved the ball from goal, but he made a string of second half saves to make up for his error. His distribution throughout the game was fantastic – and we all know what he has a lot to live up to in terms of ball playing keepers – whilst he showed good composure in plucking the ball out of the air from crosses.
Tom Cleverley, Anderson & Nani
Although 35 is the squad number of the United youngster, based upon his composed and assured performance against a physically superior side, you would be forgiven if you thought it was a 35 year old older former international with bags of experience spraying passes around the pitch. I have to say, I was extremely impressed in how he played in the second half, alongside Anderson who was another top performer – constantly trying to make things happen with forward passing and movement that was difficult to track. The jury, for many, is still out on Anderson due to his limited number of goals from midfield since his move from Porto in the summer of 07 – however, I have always been a big fan of the Brazilian. His drive, urgency and hunger to get forward was all on show yesterday.
Nani, who won the MOTM award, scored a sublime goal midway through the second half before rounding off a constantly menacing afternoon with a comical one on one with Joe Hart following hesitation in the Manchester City defence. Many Reds get frustrated with Nani’s petulance and playacting, something that could well have gone against him in the PFA Players player of the year award last season, however when he is on form like he was against City – it is clear to see that he is vital to the on going progress of the side. You could argue that up until last March, he was the best winger in the league by a distance – which seemed to unravel at Anfield following an awful tackle by Jamie Carragher (which I would like to add was talked about less than ‘Nani crying like a baby’ up and down the country). Nani, Young, Park and Valencia – will no doubt be fighting it out for a starting berth – with all four being able to play in a 4-3-3 as awell as a 4-4-2.
United were dominate in every area of the pitch yesterday: more of the ball, more shots on goal and more attempts on target. It was a very impressive performance, with Wayne Rooney stating on Twitter that it was a ‘lesson in football’. One of the biggest plus points from the game was the fact that Fergie demonstrated the depth and quality of the squad available. United’s average age in the second half was just 22 years old – a very impressive statistic – however, this youthful side looks to have inherited the hunger and desire of winning trophies as the old guard. Anderson and Cleverley bossed the midfield, whilst Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck took it in turns to drop deep and influence play. Both Nani and Young can cut inside from wide areas, with Nani being one of the best in Europe at it. United showed great character in the second half to overcome a two goal deficit, whilst playing a superb brand of football.
The title isn’t won in August and there will be many difficult moments ahead for a side that still lacks a creative influence in the midfield. Ferguson may make another signing before the August deadline – with many Reds hoping it will be Sneijder or Nasri next through the Old Trafford door. However, take nothing away from this performance yesterday from a very youthful United side. Another trophy, a superb win and thoroughly enjoyable game.