by Ifreke Inyang
This year’s Community Shield game will bring together two fierce rivals. And this of course, turns up the excitement several notches. Usually, the curtain raiser for the English season is a game between the current champions and the winner of the FA Cup. And for years on end, it has usually been a contest between Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and sometimes, a random team which had wriggled its way to cup victory.
This game at Wembley is important in many ways than one. First and most importantly, it emphasizes clearly that the Blue half of Manchester is gradually bridging the gulf that hitherto existed between them and their more popular and successful neighbours. The last time that City won a trophy was in 1969 and the last time they played a Community Shield match was in 1973. But with the acquisition of the club by Sheikh Mansour who boasts of a pocket steeper than Roman Abramovich’s, City have suddenly become a force to consider. When it comes to finances, City are streets ahead of United. And that is why they can fight with United and get a player, as they are in a better position to offer outrageous salaries and pay over the top sign on fees.
But where the true test of superiority is, ultimately, is on the pitch. It is a readily accepted fact that it will take City years to match United’s success both in England and in Europe. But they are not too far behind though. They have qualified for the group stages this year’s Champions League, upstaging Arsenal, in the final weeks of last season. And against all odds, they emerged the winners of the FA Cup. The task that lies before Mancini and the City hierarchy now, is how to wrestle the league from the Red devils, who have won it for a record 19 times.
Sunday is the day they’ll have to make their statement of intent as the season kicks off next weekend. United have bolstered their squad with Ashley Young, David De Gea and Jones while City have added Sergio Aguero and Gael Clichy to their ranks. Both managers have expressed a desire to add a player or two to the team but even if they don’t before the match, players like Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure, Javier Hernandez, etc will be on the field that day and it promises to be a cracker.
Statistics from last year will not encourage City fans. They played United several times and only won once – albeit, the most important one as it was on the road to the FA Cup final. If they can pull off another victory this weekend, it will be massive. And it is not something you would want to bet against. So as much as Sir Alex Ferguson loves to call them “our noisy neighbours”, he needs to get to his team to win. Or else, the meteoric emergence of City will continue and give not just his team but the rest of England and Europe something to think about.