August 8th, 2010
Breakthrough: Valencia finds himself in the perfect position to fire United ahead in the first half
Wayne Rooney put his World Cup torment behind him to set Manchester United on their way to an impressive Community Shield victory over Chelsea at Wembley.
Although Rooney could not get his name on the scoresheet against the double winners, it was the striker who was so out of touch in South Africa that created United’s opener with a brilliant cross to set up Antonio Valencia.
Doubling up: Hernandez celebrates putting United two goals to the good with a bizarre finish from close range
New-boy Javier Hernandez marked his competitive debut with an immensely fortuitous second and, although Salomon Kalou pulled one back, Dimitar Berbatov’s fine injury-time finish allowed United to collect the trophy for a record 18th time.
The World Cup’s legacy will not be the vuvuzela, which was thankfully absent from the showpiece curtain-raiser. Instead it will be the castigation of high-profile players.
That the reaction should be started by supporters of Manchester United, notoriously antagonistic to all things England, shows the depth of frustration at what went on in Germany this summer.
But while the boos for Ashley Cole could be dismissed as personal, those for John Terry were directly related to the Three Lions’ spectacular collapse. In response, the Chelsea fans singled out Wayne Rooney, goalless and out of sorts in the summer but so full of fire today.
Together with Paul Scholes, Rooney terrorised the Chelsea defence at times during an entertaining opening period in which both sides could have claimed the lead before United eventually did.
Branislav Ivanovic came closest for Chelsea when he climbed above Serbian team-mate Nemanja Vidic to reach Florent Malouda’s free-kick and angled a header towards the corner that brought a fine save out of veteran United keeper Edwin van der Sar.
The Dutchman’s inability to hold a long-range Nicolas Anelka effort earlier in the contest had led to a clear sight of goal for Salomon Kalou. But from an acute angle, Kalou instead turned the ball back into the six-yard box, which was vacant of both United defenders and his own attackers.
United took a bit longer to get going. Yet it quickly became apparent Scholes was going to take some stopping. Fabio Capello will not be the only England manager to lament the midfielder’s retirement. Steve McClaren felt exactly the same way.
But the Italian will continue to wonder what might have been if Scholes had been given longer than a couple of hours to decide on a last-minute offer to head for South Africa.
His calmness in possession and the accuracy of his passing mean, even at 35, he is very hard to subdue.
One cleverly disguised pass set Rooney up for a shot that just evaded the far post and Scholes was also the inspiration behind a Michael Owen cross that forced Ivanovic into a hurried clearance.
But it was the brilliant crossfield ball for Rooney, delivered from inside his own half that did the real damage. Sensing there was little danger as he jogged behind his brother in ignominy, Terry offered Rooney the room with which to execute a perfect first-time cross, drilled right into the heart of Chelsea’s penalty area.
Only Valencia read Rooney’s intentions and the Ecuador man gleefully tapped past Henrique Hilario. It was the kind of moment that proved Rooney is right to be lauded, while at the same time leaving his World Cup performances, particularly the awful one against Algeria, totally inexplicable.
Rooney’s 45-minute cameo gave way to new-boy Javier Hernandez, whose pace alone unsettles defenders and who came so close to releasing fellow substitute Dimitar Berbatov with a sublime reverse pass after initially being picked out by that man Scholes.
Everything about Hernandez’s move from Mexico so far has been positive. The one fear was, rather like Diego Forlan, whose otherwise stellar career will be scarred by those 27 games he took to score for the Red Devils, the man dubbed Chicharito would take too long to get off the mark.
But the kind of goal Forlan would have killed for, a mis-hit shot that ricocheted into his face, bounced into the Chelsea net from Valencia’s cross 14 minutes from time.
It was harsh on Chelsea, who had just gone close through Kalou, Michael Essien and Ashley Cole. Kalou did eventually beat Van der Sar but a frenetic spell of attacking failed to bring further reward and Berbatov’s deft lob from Nani’s cross ended any hope of a comeback.
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