Belfast Telegraph

Community Shield: Manchester United shake off City slickers

By Steven Beacom

Manchester City 2 Manchester Utd 3: Talk about putting down a marker for the new season. That's exactly what Manchester United did at Wembley yesterday in a dynamic display dripping with effort, energy and entertainment.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side were outstanding as they won the Community Shield.

On paper Manchester United 3-2 Manchester City sounds close, but on the pitch the Reds were streets ahead.

All City had to shout about was a 10 minute period at the end of the first half, when they scored through Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko to take an unlikely 2-0 lead into the break. For the rest of the match, due to United's attacking brilliance, the ‘noisy neighbours' were kept well and truly quiet as Chris Smalling and then Nani with a delightful double, the second in injury time, secured a richly deserved success.

A forerunner for things to come in a season in which City, aided by all those billions from the Far East, are supposed to be genuine title challengers to dominant United? Time will tell.

In reference to this fixture Bob Paisley, the legendary former Liverpool manager, used to say it was more important to be in it than to win it.

Wise words, but with the sides involved this year there was always going to be extra spice added to the starter which gets us warmed up for the main course, that is the latest Premier League campaign.

Early on the tackles were tasty from both sides, but all the mouthwatering football came from the Red Devils, in contrast to their last visit to Wembley when they were royally outclassed by the kings of Europe, Barcelona.

Yesterday it was United who dictated the play.

Wayne Rooney, new signing Ashley Young, Nani, classy substitute Tom Cleverley and Smalling excelled going forward. Even Brazilian midfielder Anderson looked a player.

And credit too for Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans, who shone with a couple of daring darts forward to go with some solid defending after entering the fray at half-time. Given United's strength at the back, Evans could struggle to get game time this term, but it's evident he's up for the challenge.

Remember United are still hopeful of signing Dutch master Wesley Sneijder. That'll make them even harder to stop in the Premier League.

On yesterday's performance, City could do with his passing qualities more as they struggled to keep possession.

No one stood out for the FA Cup winners, missing wantaway rebel Carlos Tevez.

New recruit Sergio Aguero, an unused substitute at Wembley, will have to hit the ground running, because Dzeko, despite his goal, and moody Mario Balotelli aren't strikers you would like to be relying on.

Against the run of play, it was surprising when Roberto Mancini's men took the lead through Lescott on 38 minutes, overpowering Rio Ferdinand to glance home an exquisite free-kick from David Silva.

It was even more of a shock when City doubled their advantage in first half injury time, though new United goalkeeper David De Gea should have saved Dzeko's ambitious long range drive.

As many other teams have found in the past a 2-0 half-time lead against Fergie's United sides can be dangerous.

So it proved with Smalling finishing Young's quality set piece delivery from close range on 52 minutes and then on 58 Nani drawing his team level, superbly climaxing a splendid move involving Rooney and Cleverley.

At that stage there looked only one winner, but United had to wait until injury time — with penalties looming — to clinch a merited triumph.

Seconds after Dzeko missed a headed opportunity to bag victory for the Blues, Nani was racing clear on goal, capitalising on Rooney's long clearance and a dreadful Vincent Kompany error, rounding Joe Hart and sliding the ball into the net.

It was certainly a fitting finish to the game.

And one that a smiling Ferguson and his team thoroughly enjoyed.

United fans walked away from the most famous footballing arena in the world with an extra spring in their step, feeling upbeat about the weeks and months ahead.

City followers didn't exactly trudge home fearing hopes of becoming the superior force in Manchester and England were about to be dashed, but they definitely departed with food for thought.

On the upside for them, they didn't lose any points, though there's no doubt United made one with their performance, showing City and everyone else that they remain the team to beat in the Premier League.

Belfast Telegraph

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