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Sunday, 7 August 2011

Community Shield analysis: United's fluidity and flexibility crush sloppy City

The Community Shield is only a friendly, yes, but it's a good indicator for the new season. It may not mean much and the losers will brush it off as nothing more than a friendly defeat but it helps to gage where a team is at. And, based on yesterdays game, the two teams were poles apart. United looked fluid, they were versatile and sharp. They had options, kept the ball well and played with passion, desire and as a team. City looked like a bunch of individuals thrown on the pitch, there was no drive, almost like they didn't want it. City were outplayed just as much as United were outplayed barely three months ago at the hands of Barcelona.

It may have no bearing on the destination of the Premier League title but the Community Shield gave us a clear signal - United are going to be very tough to dethrone. They bossed the game and displayed so many qualities which are needed for a title winning side.

The most impressive aspect of the performance, in my opinion, was the fluidity and flexibility of the front line, especially after the break. The movement and understanding between them was exceptional. Ashley Young and Luis Nani constantly switched flanks and cut inside, causing mayhem and confusion to City's defence.  Tom Cleverley and Anderson controlled the midfield with energy and precise passing. Wayne Rooney pulled the strings in the free role, he repeatedly found the ball in space before producing a vital pass. Danny Welbeck's pace and strength saw him cause trouble to City as he was never in the same position. It was an inter-changing front six, unlike before when it's been a rigid 4-4-2.

The second goal showed just this. It was a quite brilliant goal, a goal which Barcelona would be proud of. In fact, had Barcelona scored that goal, no-one would stop talking about it. The touch and movement from Rooney, Cleverley and Nani was stunning. The spacial awareness and anticipation made the goal, they were all on the same wavelength, knowing where each other each going. It was a magnificent, wonderful goal.




There are so many players you could pick out from this performance. Chris Smalling was once again outstanding, Anderson bossed the central midfield, Welbeck showed pace and hunger, but I was particularly encouraged by Nani and Cleverley.

I've always been a great fan of Nani. He is greedy and can be extremely frustrating at times but he produces moments of genius that turn games. He has pace and trickery, he scores goals and can put in a wicked cross when he wants to. His finish for United's second goal was sublime before he showed great composure to round Hart and win the match in the final minutes. He was good last season, this year he could become a world beater.

Cleverley produced perhaps the most encouraging individual display. Last season, United badly lacked a central midfielder who was capable of putting in a tackle but also getting up the other end and creating goals. Cleverley showed he could be that player. He has the complete package. He showed his quick feet and sharp thinking, his passing was accurate throughout and he tracked back time and time again, always putting in a tackle, showing great energy and desire.

The strength in depth was evident, too. It's almost come out of nowhere. There's been raging debates all summer on how badly United needed a central midfielder, but that was far from the case at Wembley. All over the pitch United have two players competing hard. It's the most important factor for a title winning side.

And the most frightening aspect was how young the side was. Sir Alex's genius continues to amaze. It was only a matter of months ago when there was an issue of an ageing squad with the likes of Scholes and Van Der Sar retiring. Now, there is a squad who could go on to dominate for another 10 years. There was a 20 minute period of the match where the average age of the United XI was a mere 22 years. Amazing.

It's a message of intent from United to all their rivals. They will not rest on their laurels, the squad is hungry for yet more success, Ferguson is as motivated as ever. He's building a new United squad, a young, fresh squad ready for the challenges.

As for City, they'll brush it off as a meaningless friendly, and rightly so. But it was clear to se their problems. They lack a creative midfielder to go alongside Silva as well as some width. City may have money to spend at will but money alone cannot buy success. You need that hunger and desire, that motivation to win trophies.

As I said, the Community Shield is completely meaningless in terms of glory but it can set the tone for the season ahead. It can give you huge confidence and bring a side together. United were extremely impressive at Wembley and, if that performance is anything to go by, there will be a 20th league title on it's way to Old Trafford come May.

1 comment:

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