x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

United keep hold of Community Shield

Goals from Valencia, Hernandez and Berbatov lead Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Chelsea.


LONDON // Sir Alex Ferguson was brimming with confidence as Manchester United laid down a marker at Wembley of their determination to wrest the Premier League title back off Chelsea and resist the claims of all the other wannabees, in particular Manchester City. "At the start of the season I like to look in the eyes of all the players and see if the hunger is really there to go all the way. I like what I see," said United manager Ferguson. "I think we have a really strong squad. A very good mix of youth and experience." It is never wise to read too much into the outcome of the Community Shield. Yet there was enough edge and energy in this game to suggest that both sides are poised to come out of the blocks on their toes despite it being Chelsea's fourth pre season defeat. Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, admitted: " The results have not been what we wanted but we had a lot of players late back for training after the World Cup. I am confident that within a couple of weeks we will be at 100 per cent."

Even if the summer transfer activity of both sides compared to City - who aim to muscle into this season's title race along with Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool - has been low key, there was evidence that both sides have improved the quality, depth and age range of their squads. And while new blood is always desirable to refresh even the best of teams, it was an old stager who emphasised the value of experience. Despite veteran status verging on the positively ancient, it was Paul Scholes who proved the dominant figure. "He's amazing isn't he?," beamed Ferguson. "I have to admit there were times when I though last season would be his last, but I fully expect him and Ryan Giggs to have an important influence on our season, especially helping the younger players." Wayne Rooney, so poor for England at the World Cup, certainly thrived on Scholes's service.

It left one wondering what might have been had Fabio Capello, the England manager, acted sooner in attempting to lure Scholes out of international retirement before the summer. Scholes pulled all the strings for an hour. It was he who carved a hole in the Chelsea defence with a long pass in the 41st minute for Rooney to run on to. The striker lured John Terry into a false sense of security as he drifted out wide to the right then speared a low cross into the path of Antonio Valencia who side footed home. United remained on top after the break and went further ahead when £8 million (Dh47m) summer signing Javier Hernandez scored from a Valencia cross. Even if the finish was freakish, coming off his face after he had slipped four yards out, the Mexican striker's sharpness can only enhance United's options up front. The same could be said of Chelsea's maturing Daniel Sturridge.

The young English forward had limited opportunities last season, but came off the bench to inspire a late Chelsea rally, Salomon Kalou pulling one back after Edwin van der Sar had failed to hold a fierce Sturridge shot. But it was to be United's day as Dimitar Berbatov's sublime lobbed finish made it 3-1. Both clubs may yet further strengthen. Ferguson admitting United are looking at Mesut Ozil, Germany's World Cup playmaker who plays for Werder Bremen, while Ancelotti said Chelsea would like to complete the signing of Brazil midfielder Ramires from Porto. As if both squads are not strong enough already to go all the way ... again. sports@thenational.ae