The traditional curtain raiser of the English season will take place on Sunday, with Manchester United manager David Moyes still feverishly trying to make a star addition to his cast and inspire confidence after the departure of one of the most successful managers of all time. Moyes continues to stress that players will be recruited but he certainly would not have wanted or expected to be in a position of being without a significant signing a week before the Premier League kicks off. There is also the distracting specter of Wayne Rooney’s uncertain future.
Reportedly set on leaving Old Trafford and keen on a move to Chelsea, Rooney has yet to appear in preseason and has again be excluded from United’s squad for preseason. While the club continues to cite injuries as a cause, he is notably included in England’s squad for next week’s friendly with Scotland.
It is clearly preposterous to suggest that Moyes is under pressure without a ball being kicked in anger as yet, but, given his own inexperience at the highest level and the unprecedented ear of success under Sir Alex Ferguson, there is certainly some nervousness around Old Trafford. Results in preseason, admittedly far from a reliable barometer of success when the real action gets underway, have also been underwhelming. A 3-1 defeat against Sevilla in Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial was the most recent set back. And, thus, Moyes will likely be treating Sunday’s Community Shield with extra importance than he may otherwise have done. A positive result and performance would certainly be a welcome boost.
It remains to be seen just how much focus their opponents will be putting on the fixture. Wigan Athletic became the first side to experience the huge diverging fortunes of winning the FA Cup and being relegated from the top division in the same season and will be in the rare position of the Wembley showpiece occurring after their first league fixture. The Latics began their attempt to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking with an impressive 4-0 win at Barnsley.
The club has also changed manager, of course, with the orchestrator of that win over Manchester City at Wembley in May, Roberto Martinez, being replaced by former Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle. And the Scot has stated that he is keen for the club to pick up a trophy and believes his side are capable of pulling off an upset.
“Sunday is an opportunity to win a trophy, it’s as simple as that,” he said, according to Wigan’s official website. “We have the task of trying to do that against the champions of England and one of the biggest clubs in world football.
“So it’s going to be a very tough game for us and we will be labeled as underdogs before the game but we have no doubt that if we perform to the best of our ability on the day then there’s nothing we can’t achieve.”
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Anderson
Valencia, Kagawa, Zaha
F: Van Persie
Wigan Athletic (probable)
D: Boyce, Perch, Barnett, Crainey
M: McCarthy, Watson, McArthur, Beausejour
F: Maloney, Holt
Prediction: It is hard to assess just how committed each side will be to get the victory. Wigan should be the sharper physically of the two teams having already been in competitive action and could well provide Manchester United with a sterner test than many expect. But, while United have been in less than stellar form, a strong lineup should be able to provide a boost before the real action begins next week.
Manchester United 2-1 Wigan
Where to watch: The Community Shield will kick-off at 9 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.