The Community Shield: Questions Answered?

August 5 2007

Two goals, four yellow cards, three penalties missed, three penalties scored. Some good football, a few niggly moments, and a handful of largely inauspicious debuts. The Community Shield is out of the way, but has it told us anything more about the teams that contested it?

1. Will Jose Mourinho behave himself this season?

Well, he behaved himself today. He may have been typically animated on the touch-line, but he took the defeat in a dignified manner, even if his claim that Chelsea had “controlled the game” was stretching the truth ever so slightly…

2. What is Alex Ferguson’s first-choice XI?

Impossible to tell, given the injuries that forced his hand. It is, however, safe to assume that Mikael Silvestre and Patrick Evra are unlikely to be seen linking up on the left wing anytime in the near future. Pairing Carrick with O’Shea might suggest Fergie favours a deep-lying central midfield pairing (which is obviously good news for Owen Hargreaves), but there’s no point speculating until the big names are all back to full fitness.

3. Is the Chelsea 4-3-3 back for good?

They certainly started with a 4-3-3, but it was rendered rather toothless by the absence of a recognised striker in the front three. The decision to leave Pizarro on the bench and field three wingers up front suggests Mourinho feels no pressure to make any concessions to the purists this season.

4. Is Wayne Rooney destined for the role of lone frontman?

With Louis Saha out, it does look like it. Rooney played well enough today – and took his spot-kick superbly – but United fans will worry that a strikeforce of Rooney and Tevez could easily be forced back towards their defenders, thereby robbing United’s flair players of the space they need to operate.

5. Has Andriy Shevchenko put 2006-2007 behind him?

Didn’t play. Maybe he has, maybe he hasn’t. If you ask me? Probably not.

6. Is the Wembley pitch any more conducive to good football?

It was certainly a lot better than in the Cup Final. The ball ran much more truly, and there was little sign of the pitch cutting up. Increasingly slower pace had more to do with the heat than the playing surface.

7. Have United shored up their defence?

Didn’t look shaky at all, and restricted Chelsea to just three shots on target. Malouda’s well taken goal suggests the greatest threat to Edwin van der Sar’s goal in the coming season is likely to once again take the form of lapses of concentration from everyone’s favourite prankster, Rio Ferdinand.

8. How serious is Frank Lampard’s toe injury?

Actually not that serious at all. Lampard wasn’t particularly influential, but there’s nothing to suggest it’s anything to do with his toe.

9. Will we get a better game than the Cup Final?

Well, yes we did, just about. It wasn’t exactly a thriller, but the first half in particular was graced with some fine attacking football, and penalties at least brought one last flourish of excitement to a fixture that always ends in anti-climax.

10. Are United still the best team in the country?

They were better than Chelsea today, but not by much. And both sides were missing key players. Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool have all had promising pre-seasons as well, so it’s hard to say. I think I’ll wait a little bit longer before sticking my neck out on this one…

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