The Community Shield is usually nothing more than a ceremonial opening match to kick off the beginning of the new season. Had we beat City in the semi-final last year, or if Stoke had beaten City in the final, the game on Sunday would be nothing more than a glorified exhibition where the winner receives a silver plate. In our case, it would be yet another piece of silverware to stuff in the cabinet. If it happened to be against Stoke, I’d still want to win, but wouldn’t much care about the match just so long as every one of our players came out unscathed. Any other scenario where City isn’t involved is also fine by me. This year, however, the game is the same, but the stakes are just a bit higher.
After displaying the “35 Years” banner for years, we can no longer use that as a source of jeering against City fans. The banner and the drought came to an end last year in the FA Cup Final, a cup that I would’ve loved to win, if only to make sure City went yet another year winning absolutely nothing. Alas, this is not the case. And as it were, we are now playing them in a game that not only means there’s a potential for City to take away another piece of silverware, but a game where they can try to hold the victory over our heads heading into the season. I’d like to make sure this doesn’t happen. But, not at all costs.
Manchester is Red, we all know that. Anyone who honestly tries to deny that is a delusional City fan. And we know they’re everywhere, like roaches. We’ve won the league 4 out of the last 5 years. We’ve been to the CL Final 3 times in the last 4 years, winning one of them. We just secured our 19th league title. City hasn’t won the league since 68. The only thing City can hold over our head is beating us in the FA Cup semi, eventually going on to win it. Years and years ago, the FA Cup was the piece of silverware to have. Now, it’s become more ceremonial than anything else. But when you don’t have anything to show for the last 35 years, you’ll take anything. So going into the Community Shield on Sunday, City has a whole lot more to play for other than just community bragging rights. We have a 19th league title to defend, so as much as I’d love to blank City 5-0, if we don’t win but keep all the players healthy, that’s okay by me. Let’s not roll over – and we won’t – but let’s keep our eyes on the real prize – a cup, not a plate.
With that said, I’d like to see us start our strongest 11, whoever Fergie thinks that is. With news that Carrick picked up a knock and Rafael (who is starting the testimonial) won’t play, I’ll just count them out. After thinking, and reconsidering, I’d say start De Gea in goal. We paid a handsome fee for him, and if he’s going to be the starter, throw him in there and see what he has in a game that means more than a friendly on a US tour. He needs the pressure, he needs the pitch time. Our back four should be Evra, Vidic, Rio and either Fabio or Jones. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jones back there. In MF, I’d like to see Nani, Park, Anderson, and Young. At some point, I’d like to see Valencia and Giggs on the pitch, (even Cleverley) but I’ll let Fergie decide when he wants that. Up front, I’d like to see Rooney and Berbatov. Forget that Berba hasn’t really played much for us, I think they are the best pairing sans Hernandez in the line-up. I’m not sure that Welbeck and Rooney can link up right in a game that could send a clear message to start the season. I wouldn’t mind Owen and Rooney, but feel like that could be hit or miss really. Our flanks and wingers will generate the most creativity and scoring opportunities, with Rooney probably dropping deep into the role that suited him so well in the second half of last season. With that 11 for at least 60 mins, I feel like we can beat City, regardless of who they put on the pitch.
What I will say is that I’m optimistic for the start of this new PL season. Our additions are promising. Our preseason tour was promising. I liked how we played and developed as a team. We need to start this new season strong, home and away. Winning the Community Shield is a surefire way to start strong, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t win. At the end of the day, we are the defending champions of England. City are just chasing us, like they have for the last 35 years.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasTheDevil