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Community Shield 2011 Preview: Manchester United v Manchester City

by Al 5. August 2011 04:21

This year's Community Shield pits the two Manchester giants against each other, and if their recent meetings are anything to go by, it could be a slightly tastier encounter than usual.

The Community Shield is traditionally little more than a fitness-building exercise and curtain-raiser for the new season, but with local bragging rights at stake, a competitive contest is on the cards on Sunday.

Wembley has not been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United of late, having suffered two devastating losses there at the end of last season. They were first beaten 1-0 by Manchester City in an ill-tempered FA Cup semi-final, before a Leo Messi-inspired Barcelona put them to the sword with a 3-1 victory in the Champions League final.

But after a successful preseason tour of the US, including a 2-1 victory over Barcelona, and with Wayne Rooney firing on all cylinders, the Premier League Champions will be hoping to gain a psychological edge over their title-rivals at Wembley.

United will be without the injured Javier Hernandez, Michael Carrick and Rafael. There is better news, however, regarding Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia, both of whom are back in training and will challenge for a first-team place. With Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar now retired, United fans will be clamouring to see some of their side's £50m trio of new signings. Ashley Young, Phil Jones and goalkeeper David de Gea will all be hoping to feature.

Manchester City's pre-season has been dominated by Carlos Tevez's very public desire to leave the club, while Mario Balotelli has also confessed to being unhappy in Manchester. Icons favourite Sergio Aguero has arrived from Atletico Madrid to ease City's worries, however, and Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic have also come in to bolster the defence.

City boss Roberto Mancini has confirmed that the £38m Aguero will be given time to adjust to life in England, and will start on the bench at Wembley. Want-away Tevez, meanwhile, will not return to training with City until next week, so goalscoring responsibilities will fall to Balotelli and the Bosnian Edin Dzeko.

With the Premier League kick-off just over a week away, let's hope Sunday's Community Shield proves a worthy introduction.

Icons Legend of the Week #2: Paul Scholes

by Finbarr 20. July 2011 06:51

In the second in our series of Legends, we've continued the Best of British theme from our sale. Who else could we have chosen, but Paul Scholes... 

The Premier League has earned its reputation as the world's most entertaining for a number of reasons. There is the speed of play, the energy of the game, the passion of the fans and the commitment of the players. But on technical terms, it's often been regarded as inferior to La Liga and Serie A.

The same things that the league has been praised for, though, have been used to criticise the kind of players the country produces. Occasionally, the mould is broken. Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney, in recent years, are England players that wouldn't look out of place in the red of Spain. But before them, there was Paul Scholes.

That's not to say the Oldham schemer didn't embody some of the cherished aspects of our game. In a Manchester United shirt, there were few who have given more to the cause than Scholes. But he combined it with a once in a generation elegance, vision and class that drew praise from other legends of the game.

Sir Bobby Charlton, who many consider to be the greatest United player of all, described Scholes as "in many ways my favourite United player." Xavi Hernandez, arguably the most talented midfielder in the world, said: "In the last 15 to 20 years the best midfielder that I have seen - the most complete - is Scholes. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything."

High praise indeed, but not unwarranted. Scholes started and finished his career at Old Trafford and over the course of 17 years, won every club honour in the game. 

His breathtaking range of passing, clever movement, eye for goal and the general intelligence of his play were instrumental in the helping restore the glory days to Manchester United. Alongside the bite of Roy Keane, the darting runs of Ryan Giggs and the devastating impact of Cristiano Ronaldo, Scholes has been ever present, quietly and graciously earning plaudits.

The toils of the England national side at major tournaments have been frustrating for many, but the retirement of Scholes from the international game at an early age should be a source of chagrin for everyone. 

In an attempt to accommodate both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the midfield, Scholes was shunted out on the left wing by Sven-Goran Eriksson. This 'square pegs in round holes' formula failed (under successive managers) and when Scholes announced his international retirement at only 29 in 2004, many attributed it to this perceived oversight.

When Fabio Capello asked Scholes to reconsider his decision in time for the 2010 World Cup, it was just desserts for the most talented midfielder of his generation. Scholes, though, stuck to his guns; dogged as ever.

He retired after the 2011 Champions League Final defeat to Barcelona after scoring 150 goals in 676 games for United and 14 in 66 for England. Sir Alex Ferguson's search to replace him starts now, but it remains to be seen whether he will ever find anyone to fill the gap left behind by the little ginger kid from Oldham.

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