After a Summer of tiresome, often nonsensical transfer speculation, Sunday afternoon marked the beginning of the football season for Manchester United fans, as David Moyes’ side took to Wembley to take on Wigan in the Community Shield.
As 47,000 dawned on Wembley, much of the talk and attention had been centred on the future of one, Wayne Rooney as well as the scrutiny over the new manager at the club, a new sighting in the United dugout in David Moyes and his backroom staff. With transfer targets proving hard to acquire over the window thus far, a familiar side took to the field, with many youngsters also in attendance after impressing in pre-season.
So, to kick off the post-Fergie era at United, David De Gea started in goal, with Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic paired up in defence. Out right stood Rafael with Patrice Evra on the left. In midfield, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs made up the central triquestra. Out left was Danny Welbeck and on the right, new signing Wilfried Zaha. Up front stood Robin Van Persie.
United settled in early and scored with their first chance of the game, as Van Persie played it out to Evra on the left, who then looped in a cross to the far side of the post for Van Persie to head home well from a difficult spot, to the keeper’s right, giving his side a 1-0 lead within 6 minutes.
It marked what was a comfortable first half for United in which they remained in control and Wigan posed little threat and in which chances from both sides were sparse. Rafael suffered a setback a quarter of an hour in, pulling up with an injury and being replaced by Chris Smalling, leading to a defensive alteration as Jones moved to the right.
With half time looming, Wigan showed signs of a threat as McClean played the ball across the goal and another chance as Watson’s free kick was met by Boyce, only for the ball to end up out of reach of a teammate.
United too, threatened when Welbeck fired from Cleverley’s pass, forcing Carson into a save.
The second half continued in a similar fashion, with United looking comfortable on the ball. Cleverley had an early chance, setting up to curl one in, but scuffed his shot wide. Just before hour mark, United doubled their lead as Evra, Cleverley and Welbeck combined to play the ball to the right, with Van Persie firing at goal, the ball taking a deflection to find it’s way to the net.
Soon after, Zaha made way for Valencia and Giggs departed with Anderson taking his place. With the game quietly drawing to a close, United youngster Januzaj, having impressed in pre-season was given some game time. Despite the occasional threat, there was little of note as the game reached it’s conclusion, United saw out the final minutes to give David Moyes his first Wembley triumph at United.
And so, after a relatively low key affair, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) A Low Key Wembley outing
It would be fair to say Sunday’s game would not rank among the classic Wembley matches. Although never troubled, United were not exactly dominant either as both sides never really got out of second gear. Of course, with United having an eye on next week’s season opener with Swansea and Wigan adjusting to life in the Championship perhaps it was to be expected. David De Gea was rarely trouble and although comfortable United did not create an awful lot going forward either.
Robin Van Persie, with two goals to his name, looked every bit the talisman one might expect him to be this season, and there were some aspects to be encouraged by on this occasion. A clean sheet and a win will provide Moyes with a solid base upon which to build and improve upon as the season starts.
2) What line up will be seen regularly?
Sunday provided a chance to see what kind of line up Moyes might employ initially, setting up against Wigan with a relatively strong side. Of course, with other options available as well as the youngsters providing a case for inclusion, it remains to be seen how United will set out in the coming weeks. The likes of Nani and Hernandez have not featured often over the Summer and the uncertainty surrounding Wayne Rooney as well as any potential signings means the side may be rotated and tinkered with often before finding a regular system.
3) Zaha impressed
The start given to Wilfried Zaha after being one of the highlights over the Summer gave many United fans a chance to see the new signing in a United shirt for the first time. Playing on the right he was keen to impress from the start, playing positively and looking to create from early on, looking particularly threatening while Rafael was on the pitch.
He often looked to take his man on, and although he held on to the ball too long at times, the signs were encouraging, a start reminiscent of Ronaldo on his debut all those years ago. The potential is clear to see, and with his talent and a good attitude he could achieve great things. How he develops from here will be one aspect to watch this season.
4) Fabio to cover for Rafael?
With Rafael going off injured early on, it is unclear how long, if at all he will be out for. With Smalling and Jones keen to ply their trade centrally, there could be a chance for Fabio to get a run of games on the right. Fans are more accustomed to seeing him on the left, but being right footed and having had spells on the right, he may get the opportunity to impress there. If he remains injury-free, he could prove a worthwhile option as cover.
5) The scrutiny will be intense
Leading up to the new season, with massive change occurring with many members of staff at Old Trafford, it would be fair to say the media attention has been strong for United recently, and will continue as the new season starts and takes shape.
Speculation has been dominant, with questions over Wayne Rooney taking place at the post-match press conference. The retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson was a huge moment in English football and whoever replaced him was always going to receive scrutiny, particularly when a manager such as David Moyes was given a chance.
Pressure at United is always high, but how they kick off the season will determine at what intensity it occurs. What is important is that fans get behind the manager and remain supportive whatever happens initially. The effect of such a change at Old Trafford can only truly be judged in the longer term. Given that many fans do not know a Manchester United without Sir Alex in the dugout, the images of David Moyes in the hot seat will take some getting used to.
For fans, the coming months will be an intriguing prospect.