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Chelsea and United Wont Play New Hands

915 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  rubberdecky83

Should you be lucky enough to go to the posher kind of restaurant - Portal in the City of London is Jose Mourinho's favourite - you will be offered something called an amuse-bouche. Perhaps a slither of monkfish to titillate the palate but which will have slipped from the mind by the time you drain the cognac to stiffen the nerve as the bill arrives.

That, in essence, is what the Community or Charity Shield has always been. When Manchester United face Chelsea at the new Wembley for the second time in less than three months, they will be told it is a chance to exact a measure of revenge for the defeat in the FA Cup final that ended a remarkable year on a curiously flat note.

Nothing that will happen tomorrow will erase Didier Drogba's wonderful touch that salvaged a dreadful, over-hyped match and ensured Mourinho could make the hollow boast that Sir Alex Ferguson should be asked why Manchester United had taken only one trophy from the campaign, whereas Chelsea had two.

Whatever the result, it will be long forgotten by the time the season reaches its sticky toffee pudding phase in March and April.

It is rare that a Shield victory proves very much.

United's 4-0 demolition of Newcastle in the summer of 1996 suggested Alan Shearer might have erred in preferring St James' Park to Old Trafford, while Liverpool's victory last year maintained the pattern of Rafael Benitez's dominance over Chelsea in one-off games.

Often the signals are all wrong. The way that Andrei Shevchenko equalised appeared - wrongly as it turned out - to argue that the Ukrainian forward would have an deep impact on the season to come. This time few of either club's summer signings will be involved.

Alex has just received his work permit for Stamford Bridge; Anderson and Owen Hargreaves lack the required match fitness while Carlos Tevez is settling accounts with his lawyers before journeying to Old Trafford.

With Mourinho's assistant, Steve Clarke, hinting yesterday that this season Chelsea will adopt a genuine 4-4-2 system rather than the more defensive diamond formation, how the teams line up may give the greatest clue to what lies ahead.

This will be Ferguson's 12th such game and he admits that while the glamour of this match and last Wednesday night's breathless defeat by Inter Milan have a certain appeal, he is fed up with pre-season. "You like the occasion but, really, right now I just want to get on with the Premiership.

"It has always been difficult to assess how important the Community Shield is because a lot of times we have used it as a stepping-stone to the new season because players have needed a game," he said.

"Obviously, in our situation, with the likes of Anderson, Neville, Hargreaves, Saha and Solskjaer a bit short of games, they will not be involved."

Ferguson does, however, expect a better contest than United's last meeting with Chelsea, although this would hardly stretch either team.

The new Wembley's first FA Cup final was a sumptuous occasion, with former United keeper Peter Schmeichel photographing everything that moved from the stands. But only Drogba's winner was worth capturing.

"It will probably be more competitive than the FA Cup final," Ferguson said. "Because in that game there was a tiredness in both teams and I couldn't get any more out of some of my players. The other thing that didn't help was the Wembley pitch, which was a little bit dead so the speed of the game wasn't great."

It did, however, confirm Mourinho's hold over Ferguson whenever the two men have gone head to head.

Since Porto's 2-1 victory over United in the Dragao Stadium in 2004, the two have met a further 10 times and Mourinho has lost just the once, a defeat at Old Trafford that finished with Ferguson bowing to the Stretford End but which hardly dented Chelsea's lead in the Premiership.

It will not just be Mourinho's shadow that will be falling across Old Trafford as for the first time since 2003 they begin a season with a championship to defend.

And although United followed up the dismissal of Newcastle in the 1996 Charity Shield by winning the Premiership with 75 points, Ferguson concedes that this kind of target is no longer realistic.

"The top four have all done a bit of buying so you would expect Arsenal and Liverpool to improve," he said.

"They finished 20 points behind us and they won't want to be that far behind this time around. Chelsea still have a big, strong squad so you don't expect much change there.

"You have an interesting battle developing in which a target of 90 points can win it."
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