Manchester United defeated cross-town rivals City 3-2 in the Community Shield, the opening match of the English soccer season. The match, one of English soccer’s oldest competitions, pits the previous season’s league champions against the cup winners. United were down two goals by halftime but launched a rousing comeback after the break. Nani, United’s flying Portuguese winger, grabbed a brace for the victors, including a ninetieth minute winner.
The Manchester derby is one of the fiercest rivalries in England. Historically, United have been the dominant team, lifting trophies at home and abroad while City have at times struggled to retain their top-flight status. But all that changed when a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family bought the club three years ago. City quickly recruited world-class superstars from all over the globe. Last season, City won the FA Cup and finished third in the Premier League, meaning that they automatically qualified for this year’s European Champions League. This season, their aim is to win the league (United took home the trophy last year).
City opened the scoring in the 38th minute when Joleon Lescott headed a free kick past United’s new ‘keeper, the twenty year old Spaniard David de Gea. On the stroke of halftime, Edin Dzeko doubled City’s lead. The Bosnian forward looked a little out of his depth last year after a big money move from Wolfsburg in Germany but his strike showed his confidence is still intact. From twenty yards outs, Dzeko hit a powerful swerving shot that just beat de Gea’s late dive. A fine and ambitious shot but de Gea should have saved it. Will Alex Ferguson, United’s coach, regret choosing an inexperienced youngster to take the place of Edwin van der Saar, one of the game’s top goalies before his retirement this summer? If United can replicate their second half performance against City for the rest of the season, then Ferguson will have no worries. Their offense should cover any lapses by de Gea, who faces a steep learning curve in England (though he did make some fine saves at the end of the game).
Seven minutes after the break, Chris Smalling, United’s young defender, clawed a goal back when he got on the end of a free kick after City’s defense left him unmarked. The equalizer, twenty minutes later, was a fantastic team goal, worthy of European champions Barcelona: United moved the ball around the edge of City’s box with a series of fine one-touch passes and give-and-go’s before Nani chipped goalie Joe Hart. Then, with the game seemingly headed to over-time, Nani nicked the ball from Vincent Kompany, the last man in City’s defense, after the center-back mishandled a long United clearance. Nani burst forward, rounded Hart, and finished easily to give his team the win.
United have a strong team, improved by the addition of winger Ashley Young and the emergence of young players like Smalling, midfielder Tom Cleverley, and striker Danny Wellbeck. If de Gea doesn’t make mistakes and Ferguson finds someone to replace midfield maestro Paul Scholes, now retired, United might well claim a second straight title. City will be right on their tails though, especially once their Argentinean forward Sergio Aguero, a new signing who spent this game on the bench, is integrated into the team. If London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea continue to struggle, the league trophy will be Manchester bound.