Date: 4th August 2007 at 3:50pm
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You remember all the media hype around May’s FA Cup final? I suppose it’s not easy to forget – at least, I did not manage to do that. And I’m sure you remember what a horrible game it turned to be, even if we cast aside the fact that we lost it. Now, a bit less than three months later, the two contestants are back at Wembley to raise the curtain on the domestic season.

Of course, the Community Shield is hardly more than a pre-season game that happens to involve a trophy, too. It’s prestige is pretty low so the pressure on both teams is insignificant – therefore, I hope we might even see a good game.

Not that any of the managers would want to lose this game. Mourinho and Fergie will both be eager to inflict some early damage on their deadly rivals and therefore the teams will take the game seriously. I think.

Vital Quotes:

Sir Alex seems to agree with me, for he expects an exciting game, not the dead rubber what was the FA Cup final.

‘I think it will be a better game,” he said. “There was tiredness in both teams in the cup final. I know that I couldn’t get any more out of my players. They’d done a fantastic job for us, virtually the same players every week from the beginning of April.

“But the other thing was that the pitch was a bit dead. Being a new pitch, that was a problem. There had been a lot of rain during the week and then the sun came at the weekend and it just deadened the pitch. The speed of it wasn’t great. I know the groundsman and he’ll work to make sure it’s a good pitch eventually. Sometimes it takes time to settle down. If it’s a better pitch then it’ll be a better game.”

So it was the pitch, then? I always thought that these two teams were simply too afraid of losing to the other but then I’m wrong it seems. Though I don’t think so. But of course Fergie has still things to say so I shut up now.

‘It will be a competitive game. Even though I said we’ve used it as a stepping stone in the past, it’s always been competitive. I don’t think you can avoid that. When you’re playing against a team that are going to be competing against you for top honours, it can only be competitive. It will be that way on Sunday.”

Darren Fletcher, surely to play a part due to the injury of Paul Scholes and the absence of Owen Hargreaves told the world that he relished battling for midfield places with his colleagues. Well, there’s your first chance to impress, Darren.

Chelsea Team News:

Frank the hero Lampard will play through the pain with gritted teeth due to a toe injury – such courage is admirable, isn’t it? Why it’s so important for them to play him is beyond me but that’s their business.

Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack might not feature due to the fact that they could be sold to Real Madrid within 24 hours – and the German is also injured so he definitely won’t play, just like Salomon Kalou and Wayne Bridge.

Player to watch: Joe Cole

I go for Joe Cole because he’s my favourite Chelsea player – but it’s possible that Essien will be man of the match.

Manchester United Team News:

Facts: new boys won’t play. Louis Saha, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes are all out with injuries. Jonny Evans is suffering from a stomach virus, nothing serious so he’ll be included in the squad.

Sir Alex said he would field roughly the same team that he had sent to the pitch against Inter Milan; that is to say, we’ll line up as follows:

Van der Sar – Brown, Rio, Vidic, Evra – O’Shea, Carrick – Ronaldo, Giggs, Eagles – Rooney

Player to watch: Chris Eagles

After Wednesday’s display, I’d urge someone to watch Vidic and Rio, to ensure they will do nothing like that again… Anyway, all the usual suspects are there so I go for a surprise: check out Chris Eagles. He’s been impressive during pre-season and might even do good things against the FA Cup winners.

Match Facts & Stats

Last time we approached this game as champions (2003) we won it on penalties against Arsenal after an extremely bitter and bad-tempered match. Then we had a wretched season…

Match Prediction:

Can’t make one, both team can win this but neither will be at full strength – so we’ll see.

Next Fixtures:

United will start their title defence against Reading on next Sunday, at 13.30 – Chelsea also have a home game on the first day, newly-promoted Birmingham will visit Stamford Bridge.