Football / Charity Shield: United learning to live with their riches: Ferguson says he would have happily shared the spoils at Wembley

Arsenal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

(United win 5-4 on pens)

MANCHESTER UNITED on a lap of honour, Arsenal bellyaching about an unsympathetic press. 'Ere we go, 'ere we go. It was as if football had never been away.

If there was an inevitable familiarity about the two most successful teams in the country barely three months after their clean sweep of the domestic honours, the support they command is such that no match between them will ever be treated with contempt, and a respectable 66,000 were at Wembley on Saturday for the overblown friendly that is the Charity Shield.

That the Football Association has come to regard the fixture with rather more seriousness than the public was evident in the groans which greeted the realisation that a winner was to be found by penalty shoot-out. This tie- breaking lottery is a contentious device at the best of times. In the context of a charity game it has all the relevance of Vinnie's video nasties.

Both sides would have preferred to share the shield but, not for the first time, no one at Lancaster Gate had bothered to consult the people who play the game. As a result, a decent 1-1 draw, with which everyone was happy, became an ersatz 5-4 win for United when Peter Schmeichel saved the most casual of penalties from his opposite number, David Seaman.

Such a tame ending was an affront to a good, competitive match, illuminated by authentic goals of the highest class.

Alex Ferguson summed it up best. 'This is not a game that is meant to prove anything,' the United manager said. 'Both clubs did that last season. The Charity Shield should be a celebration of success. We would gladly have shared it.'

It was Ferguson who felt he had learned most from the match proper, although that worry-lined face collapsed into its customary hangdog mien when he was quizzed about his best starting line-up.

Splashing out pounds 3.75 million on Roy Keane must give him an embarrassment of riches in midfield. In time. The Irishman's below-par condition and consequent lack of stamina can only be temporary, and will presumably be remedied by extra training but, pending his return to optimum fitness, there is an obvious temptation to promote Brian McClair in his place.

A fixture for so long, it seems strange to find anyone but McClair wearing No 9, and it would be a surprise if he again took no part when United begin the defence of their title, at Norwich on Sunday.

For the moment, with Keane still trying to find his feet beneath some surplus avoirdupois, only Paul Ince is assured of his midfield place at Carrow Road. England's most recent captain resumed on Saturday where he had left off last season - as the most dynamic engine-room artificer in the country.

After paying a fortune for Keane, it raised a few eyebrows when Ferguson admitted on Saturday that he was not sure how effectively he and Ince could operate in tandem. On the face of it, the two grafters are a little 'samey', and the manager said: 'I had to play Roy from the start to see how he and Paul shaped together.'

For the first 25 minutes, when Keane was full of running, he had been satisfied. After that? Judgement had to be reserved. Hmmm. At pounds 3.75m, it had better work.

Ferguson's concern at the way Arsenal were able to turn the tide saw Bryan Robson introduced as a stabilising influence, midway through the second half. The old warrior is 36 now, and destined to keep the No 12 shirt for what could be his last season, but if the legs are slowing the spirit is undimmed, and as galvanizing substitutes go, he takes some beating.

United, who preferred the head- down pace of Andrei Kanchelskis to the more composed wing play of Lee Sharpe, were always the better side, but will have to train on, in racing parlance, if they are to emulate Liverpool and translate fleeting success into enduring domination.

Favourites they are, and properly so, but all last May's heady talk of a new golden era is giving way to a gathering suspicion that their campaign at home could be undermined by the opening of a second front, abroad. The glittering distraction of the European Cup could let in Aston Villa, Blackburn, or perhaps a resurgent Liverpool.

Arsenal, too, nurture title aspirations, of course, and in their case the diversion of the Cup-Winners' Cup is offset by the presence of nine Englishmen in their team to United's four. While the champions will have to chop and change for Europe, the Cup holders will preserve the precious continuity beloved of managers everywhere.

Arsenal's old strengths, and Achilles' heel, are immediately in evidence. They are impressively solid, if a little short on craft, in all departments, but their pressing need is to find a productive striker to share the goalscoring burden with Ian Wright. Paul Merson, a reluctant winger, is probably a better bet than Kevin Campbell.

On Saturday, as throughout last season, it was a case of: 'If Wright doesn't score, Arsenal won't' To the surprise of no one, bar poor Schmeichel, he did, staggering probably the best goalkeeper in the world with a volley hooked in out of nothing, from 20 yards.

A delightful goal, it was, only a shade better than the one with which Mark Hughes had given United an eighth-minute lead. After a summer of Sumo Merv, here was Sado Mark, Manchester's Macho Man harrassing defenders and embarrassing them with a typical tumbling volley to do full justice to an ooh-aah of a chip from the endlessly inventive Eric Cantona.

The issue should have been settled by a bona fide penalty, when Ince was tripped by John Jensen. Instead, we were condemned to a shoot-out as tedious as any Eastwood epic. Wright got it wrong, Seaman was anything but able, and suddenly everyone was shaking hands, wreathed in who- cares-who-wins smiles.

Enough charity. Our faith and hope is in the real thing.

Goals: Hughes (8) 1-0, Wright (40) 1-1. Penalty shoot-out (Man Utd score given first): Ince 1-0, Winterburn 1-1, Bruce 2-1, Jensen 2-2, Irwin 2-2, Campbell 2-3, Keane 3-3, Merson 3-4, Cantona 4-4, Wright 4-4, Robson 5-4, Seaman 5-4.

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon (Keown, 45), Winterburn, Davis, Linighan, Adams, Campbell, Wright, Merson, Limpar (McGoldrick, 74), Jensen.

Manchester United: Schmeichel; Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Kanchelskis, Pallister, Keane, Ince, Cantona, Hughes, Giggs (Robson, 68).

Referee: G Ashby (Worcester).

Wolves have made an improved offer of pounds 1.5m for Darren Peacock, the QPR centre-back. Keith Burkinshaw has completed his first signing since succeeding Ossie Ardiles as West Brom manager, paying pounds 225,000 for the Preston winger Lee Ashcroft.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Operative

£6 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a well e...

Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen