August 7, 2011; 13:30 GMT [+5:30 IST]
The talk is over as the season is finally here and what better way to start the proceedings than the Manchester Derby? Ferguson’s United take on Mancini’s City in the curtain raiser for this year’s Premier League campaign. The Charity Shield’s significance has just gone up a notch or two, as neither club would like to lose to their bitter neighbors. The Red Devils are contesting their 6th consecutive shield whereas City, after years in wilderness, are back amongst the elite, fuelled on by the financial clout of their mega rich owners.
The game represents a chance to deliver an early psychological blow as come the end of the season these two teams will surely be locked in battle for supremacy at the top of the League table. Can United avenge the F.A Cup defeat or will City deliver another blow on their hitherto dominant neighbors? Hopefully, the game will deliver on its promise and would not turn into a damp squib.
Manchester City come into the season with a lot of expectations after a more than satisfying last season. They not only secured the much-yearned Champions League qualification but also won the F.A. Cup, which was their first trophy in 35 years. The monkey is off their back now but the season is going to be a lot tougher for Mancini and his men as they would be playing under the burden of the higher than ever expectations of their fans. With City expected to be fighting for the title this season, this match gives them the chance to throw down the gauntlet and make a statement to their title challengers and the rest of the league.
United, on the other hand, start their season after having one of their biggest squad overhauls in a long time. The likes of Van Der Sar, Scholes and Neville have retired while O’ Shea, Brown and Hargreaves were all released in the summer. However, Sir Alex has dipped into the market to buy three players in Young, Jones and De Gea. Although they have had a good pre-season, Fergie would be the first person to admit that the team will take time to gel together as a unit. However, the Red Devils face a daunting fixture list at the start of the season and hence, will be looking to get into their stride as soon as possible.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Mancini, contrary to all the speculations, has been relatively quiet in the transfer window making only one big money signing in the form of Sergio Aguero from Athletico Madrid. Gael Clichy is another well known name added to the squad as he was signed for a reported fee of 7 million pounds. The team comes into the game after having a good pre-season winning all their five fixtures (one on penalties) including a 3-0 drubbing of Inter Milan. Mancini did face a minor hiccup in the pre-season as he had a touch-line row with Mario Balotelli, when the manager substituted the star-striker for showboating in-front of goal.
Mancini had faced a lot of criticism last season for his defensive tactics and it would be interesting to see whether he sheds his safety first approach and allow his team to be more expansive this season. However, in this game he is expected to go in with a more cautious approach given the nature of opponents and also this being the first game of the season. The manager also has a virtually full squad at his disposal except the unsettled Carlos Tevez who has been given an extended break to stay with his family back home. New-boy Aguero is also unlikely to start the game but he is expected to be involved at some stage from the bench. However, the other new boy, Gael Clichy is expected to start at left back alongside Richards, Kompany and Lescott in defence. The midfield is likely to have Barry, De Jong and Yaya Toure with the Ivorian expected to play furthest forward of the three. Silva, Dzeko and bad-boy Balotelli are likely to lead the line in a 4-3-3 formation.
Sir Alex and his men also come into the game after a successful pre-season tour of the United States. The Red Devils won all their games including a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the final game of the tour. The manager also seemed satisfied with the tour as he had ample opportunities to try different players and tactics with his new look squad. Fergie has already started his war-of-words asking his team to beat the ‘noisy neighbours’ which indicates this match is anything but a friendly. United would also be eager to erase the bad memories of the last time these two teams met when their rivals beat them in last season’s F.A. Cup semi-final in April.
It will be most interesting to see what line-up Sir Alex puts out on Sunday as three first team players – Rafael, Carrick and Hernandez are all ruled out of the derby clash. While De Gea is expected to get his first start between the posts, other new comers Jones and Young are likely to be named on the bench. The manager might also look to rest Rio Ferdinand in order to keep the injury-prone Englishman fit and ready for the tough fixtures coming up. Chris Smalling is likely to take his place alongside Vidic with Fabio and Evra taking up duties of full-backs. In the midfield Cleverley and Anderson could start as they had a good game against Barcelona in pre-season while Park and Nani are expected to play on the flanks. Up-front, Berbatov is most likely to start in the absence of Chicharito with Rooney playing behind him in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Key Match Facts
1. This is the seventh occasion when the Community Shield is played between city rivals. (Last occasion – Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal, 2005)
2. The team that has won the Shield has gone on to win the Premier League in the last four seasons.
3. Seven Community Shield matches have been decided by penalty shoot-outs including three of the last four.
4. United hold the record of most Community Shield wins: 18 (14 outright, 4 shared)
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
SERGIO AGUERO (Manchester City)
The little Argentine has been setting the La Liga on fire in the last few seasons with Atletico Madrid. However, the English League is a different ball-game altogether. All eyes would be on him as City’s fortunes for the season might well depend on the form of Aguero. Also, the price-tag of 38 million is enough to attract attention from all corners of the media.
TheHardTackle’s SHIELD PREDICTION
Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United
The game will be played on the knife edge as none would want to give away the initiative. City seem to have more first team players fit for this one and that might do the trick. However, derbies are most often that not won on passion and commitement, ergo count the champions out at your own peril.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST