Five Things We Learned – United vs. City (Community Shield)
4) Chris Smalling was a constant danger
Some may have expressed a degree of surprise when it was announced that Chris Smalling would be playing at right back, particularly given that Rafael was deemed fit. However, it proved to be a worthy selection, with a strong performance from a defender that has taken many by surprise since his arrival from Fulham. At Wembley, he took the occasion in his stride as he looked to get forward without leaving himself exposed defensively. His strong presence in attacking positions as well as providing another option in the box gave the City defense nightmares for much of the game and was rewarded with a well taken finish from Young’s free kick and kick start United’s revival.
5) Youth and New Signings – The future is bright
After the break with substitutions made and with Rafael replacing Evra later on, the average age of the United side dropped to just over 20 years of age, with Ashley Young the oldest member at 26 by a matter of months. It was a chance to demonstrate what the rebuilding process has achieved at Old Trafford with Danny Welbeck given a starting role providing a threat upfront with Rooney, and Tom Cleverley being given a chance to show why many have tipped him for a bright future at Old Trafford. In fact it was Cleverley’s arrival in particular that made a difference for United, always getting involved with play, making strong tackles and generally demonstrating the benefits of his time spent at Wigan last season. He appeared mature, stronger and mentally in the right place to make an impact on the United side. In fact some may wonder if Sneijder will be worth signing at all with such a young and potentially brilliant talent waiting in the wings, one which is more than likely to have his fair share of games this season.
It is unlikely we will ever see a Scholes Mark II, but there is a wealth of talent that could make their own mark for years to come. Indeed that is what will have been most encouraging for Sir Alex Ferguson as we head into a new season. Not just the fact that his side responded in the right way to going two goals down, but that his younger members of the team are clearly showing great potential and that he may well be on the cusp of a truly great side in years to come.
With the likes of Macheda, Hernandez, Fabio and many others also young options, the future certainly looks bright. In a game that United generally controlled from the beginning, with exception for brief periods and lapses for City’s goals, it can be considered a good start for what is bound to be a tough season. For those believing in omens, since moving to the new Wembley, every winner of the Community Shield has gone on to win the league, will the trend continue? Fans will be hoping that is the case.