With a positive pre-season and a squad looking sharper by the day, our attention now begins to turn towards the Community Shield to be played a week before the season begins against our rivals and FA Cup victors moneybags Manchester City.
If you asked a United fan if this was more than just a season opening showpiece, and they told you no, they would be lying. The majority of United fans love to beat City, and let’s face it we all want a measure of revenge for the FA Cup defeat, not to mention the game is a throwing down of the gauntlet for the upcoming season; showing our traditional challengers such as Chelsea and Arsenal, but also new boys City that we are still the number one force to be reckoned with.
So what are our chances of actually doing this?
Firstly looking at our squad, despite a strong push from Lindergaard during the US Tour, De Gea will start between the posts and have his first real test, and what a game to do it in. Our superb center back pairing of Rio and Vidic have looked strong in pre-season and more than capable of keeping out the City strikers who have not been sent to the reserves by Mancini. With Evra and Rafael in the full back positions, and Rooney and Berbatov, in place of the mildly concussed Javier Hernandez, up top the only area of the squad that may prompt concern is that of the midfield.
Having either lost interest or failed to complete a deal for Sneijder yet, it will be down to the players already in the squad to fill the void left by Scholsey and provide that creative spark, with Anderson controversially saying he is the player to do this.
Young seems to have forged an understanding with Evra already, and the left side of our team looks strong and one to watch. Carrick will need to continue his fine pre-season form and build on this, and should he start he could be a vital player in the Community Shield. Park has had a great pre-season, and again has boosted his reputation for being more than ‘a great squad player’. The concern over the health of Darren Fletcher has not gone away, with the player being ruled out for the foreseeable future, leaving United somewhat short in the midfield area .
With mixed messages coming from the United camp over the possibility of a final summer signing, it remains to be seen who will make up the midfield come the opening game of the season. However, although a further midfielder could be needed, it is far from panic time, and the United squad as a whole look as good as any in the premier league, if not better.
When considering our opponents City, it looks like a deal for Aguero will be done in time for him to start the game. His signing would provide a considerable threat upfront in place of, or worst case scenario, alongside Carlos Tevez. In Joe Hart City have a solid keeper, with a reputation that is growing by the day. City’s defence is a fairly tight one, with Kompany being the stand out performer there, but nothing that Rooney and Berbatov would not be able to penetrate given the chance.
By now everyone will have either seen or heard about the backheel attempt on goal by Mario Balotelli against LA Galaxy, and the subsequent reaction by Mancini. Whomever you feel was in the wrong there, it was clear after the substitution of Balotelli that City were distinctly lacking up front and offered little to no threat, especially when considering the ever adventurous Mancini put Milner on in Balotelli’s place, leaving Dzeko to lead the line alone. Should Balotelli still be out of favour and Dzeko be the lone striker at Wembley, I would wager a slow and easy afternoon for Rio and Vidic, with Aguero most likely taking time to acclimatize to the Premier League and bedded in slowly. Tevez seems to be on his way, meaning that not only will the ridiculous ‘welcome to Manchester’ poster be forgotten, but will mean even less firepower upfront for City.
When looking at both squads as a whole, it seems that United have considerably more quality and experience than City. It also has to be remembered that in Fergie we have the best manager of modern times, you would wager he would have dealt with the Balotelli incident a lot differently and did it in a more professional manner rather than having a slagging match with the player infront of the cameras.
All in all, it seems that a win for the red half of Manchester is the most likely, with City looking far less conditioned in pre-season thus far, and with Rooney threatening we will se his best this season and looking on top form this summer, it’s an ominous sign for our rivals.