The Community Shield kicks off the brand new English season with a mouth-watering matchup between two teams widely expected to contend for this year’s title. Premier League champions Manchester United take on FA Cup winners Manchester City at Wembley Stadium Sunday (live 9:30 a.m. ET, FOX Soccer and @FOXSoccerTrax) in a derby clash between two of the biggest and richest clubs in the game.
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The FOX Soccer Match Day crew sat down to break down all the action and preview some of the new faces you’ll see on Sunday..
FOX Soccer.com: Welcome back, guys. Let’s just start out with the basics. This is technically a friendly, but we expect this one two be a big, big game, right?
Warren Barton: Yes, it’s a huge game for the city of Manchester in general, and for any neutral fan, this is what they’ve been waiting for. We want to see City compete straight up with United, and they will do that on Sunday. Whoever wins this normally goes on to win the league so I think it’s very important for both. And the Shield is a great spectacle – when I played in, it was a lot of fun even though United beat us. It’s a great curtain raiser, and having it be a derby this year just adds spice.
Keith Costigan: I’d be lying to you if I told you that Charity Shields have excited me in the past but this year there is something on the line. Manchester United don’t want to lose to Manchester City. United are worried that City can catch them and they should be. City got a taste for silver last season and they want this game Sunday. A win sets the tone for the season. It’s now a game of massive importance and I think can make for exciting viewing.
Nick Webster: In the big picture it means nothing but in the smaller, this game sets down a marker. I had an interesting chat with Brian Kidd, who was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant in the ’90s, and he told me that Sir Alex took this game very seriously, because he thought it got the team started out with a winning mentality right from the first week, even before the league started.
FS.com: A couple big name players are missing – Carlos Tevez has an allowed absence and Javier “Chicarito” Hernandez has a concussion — but we’ve also got some new faces on both teams. How does this affect the game?
Warren: Not having Tevez and Chicharito hurts the game a little, but there’s a lot of quality out there. United showed in the USA that they are ready to go, and I think we really have to look out because they normally get better as the season goes on. United look like they want to send a message that they mean business.
Kyle Martino: Tevez being out affects Manchester City a lot, but if it’s a straight swap between him and Kun Aguero, I think City will remain one of the more dangerous if not the most dangerous attacking teams in the entire league. Aguero is capable of putting on a show, and the team as a whole has looked very sharp in pre-season. I think they are going to show us that they are a much more confident and disciplined side. They are not the new boys or a surprise, and they deserve to be in the top four.
Nick:Well, the Tevez Saga is one of the longest running ones we’ve had in the Premiership. Is it a distraction for his teammates? No, I think they’re getting on with it and they’re all making great money. The funny thing is, no matter how unhappy he seems off the field, on the field, he’s an absolute tearaway. Will they miss him if he leaves? Yes, but they have a ready-made replacement for him.
Keith: I think honestly that this can sometimes be a breath of fresh air for a squad, as we saw last season when Fernando Torres left Liverpool for Chelsea. So, I think it doesn’t matter that Tevez isn’t playing. Aguero looks like he can be a superstar, and Edin Dzeko has looked better after the summer.
Warren: Yeah, Aguero is a very talented player, and I think that with a little time he’ll be for City what David Villa is to Barcelona: he just adds that bit of class. He’s a real predator, a real exciting footballer, and with David Silva right behind him and Tevez perhaps staying, they could have a lot of quality in that area.
FS.com Well, there’s a couple big losses for United too, with Edwin van Sar and Paul Scholes retired.
Kyle: The retirement of Paul Scholes is big. Recently Rio Ferdinand told the press that United had lost big players in the past and always replaced them with guys who weren’t exactly like them but got the job done. With all due respect to Rio, I think it’s going to matter and Scholes will be very tough to replace. Van der Sar was always the x-factor, a man who could change a game, and how David de Gea steps into his shoes will be a huge story going forward and could be a critical component of the Community Shield.
Warren: I was very surprised when Sir Alex didn’t pick up Manuel Neuer or Maarten Stekelenburg – I would have wanted a proven keeper. Look, when Peter Schmeichel left United it took a long time to regroup, and that could well happen again. Normally, Sir Alex is very good at picking talent, but he’s had some hiccups at goalkeeper, so I think you have to watch what happens now with de Gea very closely.
Nick: Being No. 1 at Old Trafford is probably the toughest job in football. There’s no hiding place and it’s a testament that Van der Sar was able to stay in there at such a high level for so long. It’s really a massive loss for the club to have him retire. I’m not sold on De Gea. I think we all know it takes time to become a great keeper, but it’s going to be very tough because United will not be patient with him no matter how much money he cost them. Now, there’s also a bit of tension with the backup, Anders Lindegaard. He has proved himself to be very adaptable in the pre-season, with some great agility, and he’s said he doesn’t want to be the No. 2. Sir Alex will have to make a choice there quickly because you have to say who the number one keeper is immediately. If you don’t you allow doubt to creep in your squad. It’s going to be interesting to see who he picks.
FS.com: All right: Who wins this one?
Kyle: I think United looks ready to rock. I saw them a lot in pre-season and they want to make a statement in this game.
Warren: I’m taking United in this one, too. I think City will have a great season but they are not quite there yet, and United are looking to send that message. United have been very disciplined and professional in pre-season; City have had some moments but they haven’t had their captain and they lost Vieira so I think this might be a bit of a wakeup call. And United like giving wakeup calls to people.
Nick: I’m going to plump for City. I think will be a fairly open game as most of the Shields are — it’s the nature of the beast because no team has really found their rhythm at this stage of the season — and City will take it 2-1.
Keith: I’m not going to make a pick, but I want to make the point that this game is a very big one for Roberto Mancini: He faces a make or break season. That next logical step is to challenge for the Premiership title and if that doesn’t happen, he’s out of a job. There’s going to be a lot of mind games ahead for Mancini and the only way to stop them will be to win the league. He has to start well here on Sunday.