Community Shield preview: Chelsea v Manchester United

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Community Shield preview: Chelsea v Manchester United
By rights, Carlo Ancelotti should be able to send 22 of his players out onto the Wembley pitch for a friendly kickabout on Sunday afternoon.
The Community Shield pits the Premier League winners against the FA Cup holders after all, and, after Chelsea won both last season, then surely they should be allowed to do whatever they like here. Thankfully for the competitive nature of this fixture, which is never the most keenly contested, its Premier League runners-up Manchester United who’ll pitch up instead; and there’s no doubt which team is in the better form.
Chelsea have lost their last three pre-season matches to Ajax, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburg amid a host of frankly comedic defensive errors, while United come to Wembley fresh from officially opening Dublin’s new Aviva Stadium with a 7-1 hammering of a League of Ireland Select XI on Wednesday night.
It’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s side who look better prepared then, and the veteran boss certainly will be, this is the 15th time that he’ll have coached his side in the season’s traditional opener in the last 21 years, not that he takes these games too seriously.
“We'll use Sunday's game as we have done over the last few years,” says the 68-year-old, “as a mechanism to get players further down the line in terms of fitness.”
That’s not say he doesn’t want to win though – he always does – and he’ll be relying upon the English front pair of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen at Wembley, after confirming that both will play for at least 45 minutes. He will be without the injured Rio Ferdinand, Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and Gabriel Obertan though, while Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio have food poisoning after what was presumably a family dinner gone wrong.
Chelsea could also be serving Ferguson’s men on a plate at the weekend, if their pre-season defending is anything to go by.
A series of errors have blighted the club’s pre-season, with injury to Petr Cech meaning that both Hilario and Ross Turnbull have had to stand in between the sticks. Quite frankly neither have looked up to it, but Ancelotti has to stick with one of them at the weekend, and it’s the Portuguese who has got the nod.
“We have Cech injured, we have Hilario and Turnbull and we want to have trust in these players,” he said, although whether he believes that is a different matter.
“They did a mistake in the last games, we are unhappy for this, but we maintain trust because Hilario has to play in the next game. He has had good matches, and we have trust in him.”
Didn’t really convince much did he? But what is clear is the Italian’s respect for United. He knows that, as always, Ferguson’s team will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
“I think that for both teams it is an important game,” he said, “because it is a very important check for the season and we want to see how our condition is, and also because against Manchester United is never an easy game.
“We want to do our best - Manchester United could be the most important opponent this season, like they were last season. For this I think that we need to come back to win because we lost too many games, friendly games, but we are not happy to lose. We have to come back to win and start well.”
They could do that here, but with Ancelotti confirming that Didier Drogba will start on the bench coupled with his goalkeeping problems, it is United who look the stronger.
Ferguson can start this particular campaign in the fashion that he always wants to – and frequently does – end them, with a trophy.
He’ll know that victory in this particular battle means nothing in the overall war though.
This is just sparring, but that doesn’t mean he can’t savour the sweet taste of success.
Prediction: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 2



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