The more things change the more they stay the same. This old hackneyed expression rang true again after yesterday’s community shield. A new look Manchester United displayed the clubs old values of resilience and character to triumph 3-2, and once again City were on the receiving end of a last minute winner. City fans might have felt that last seasons F.A cup win over United was a turning point and they could look forward to beating United on a regular basis from now on. If that were so then yesterday was a rude awakening.
In truth United were the better team throughout, and City’s 2-0 lead had come very much against the run of play. Mancini admitted as much afterwards, but privately he must have felt his team’s famously miserly defence should have ensured victory. This was always going to be a match with an added edge to it despite its reputation as a glorified friendly and so it proved as we saw a game, which was a full blooded, intense and at times fractious affair. United`s dramatic victory will give Mancini plenty of food for thought.
His team looked off the pace for much off the encounter in stark contrast to United who were vibrant and buzzing from the off. City will take the benefit off the extra 90 minutes, but they will already be feeling they are playing catch up to United before the season has even begun. Mancini (as well of the rest of the title challengers) will have also noticed how well the United youngsters seamlessly slotted in and he will be aware that United are in prime condition to retain their title. City’s disjointed performance will once again raise murmurs that City are more a group of highly paid, highly talented individuals rather than a team.
City will doubtless improve once the season starts and it would be foolish to try and read too much into yesterday’s game, but it seems as though some of the problems that Mancini had last season are still there now. For instance Mario Balotelli simply picked up where he left off last season, with a sulky brooding performance of little productivity, capped off with an early substitution followed by a storming off down the tunnel. Gary Neville quipped after that Mancini spends half his press conferences answering questions about the Balotelli, this will only continue until he can get the best out the youngster sooner rather than later.
Once again City looked like a defensive team who displayed very little verve or imagination in the final third save for a few moments of brilliance from the splendid Silva. Aguero in the team and the possibility of Tevez returning should change the picture, but hopes that Mancini would play with the handbrake down this season already look optimistic to say the least.
From United`s point of view, they have laid down a marker that they are without a doubt the team to beat, and they will feel they have put the arrivistes from down the road back in their place for the time being. Much has been made that the average age of the team at one point was only 22 years, certainly the likes of Cleverly and Smalling look as they been at Old Trafford for years and it will be interesting to see how Fergie rotates throughout the season. In any case United look well stocked to dominate again domestically.
Mancini will have to hit the ground running and make sure City keep pace with the leaders in the first the few months, to keep the wolves at bay. City may have only made one big signing this summer, but expectations have increased drastically. Performances like yesterday will no longer be tolerated. Mancini looks as though he is still searching for his best eleven; luckily for him the fixture list has been kind. City do not play one of the big boys till October, however people will expect the Citizens to rack up the points in the first couple of months. It will give him chance time to tweak his team, but he knows he is fast running out of time.
City remain a squad brimming with potential which has yet to be fully unlocked, whereas United look like the final article, the more things change the more they stay the same.
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