Football: Old stagers fit to raise the curtain

Charity Shield: Desire the main factor as Chelsea and Manchester United start the ball rolling
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The Independent Online
They can stop singing about football coming home at Wembley this afternoon, thankfully, because it never really went away this summer. Less than two months have passed since the England team finished last season by winning Le Tournoi and now Chelsea and Manchester United are ready to kick it all off again in the Charity Shield.

The reigning Premiership champions and FA Cup holders could be tempted to ease themselves back into action, but the lack of a decent summer break - which will probably lead to the resting of David Beckham today - the heavy weather and sapping Wembley pitch is unlikely to stop both sets of players going full out at each other. Such is Manchester United's continued desire for success they have come to depend on it almost like a drug. It is an addiction that Ruud Gullit is trying to get his players hooked on, too.

Winning the FA Cup, Gullit believes, was just a sample before moving on to the really hard stuff. "It is so important to be hungry and want more success. I could see in the players after the FA Cup final that they knew that success was over and now we had to get on with the next one," he says.

The Chelsea striker Mark Hughes is a valued ally in his manager's quest for greatness. He will again keep the more celebrated Gianluca Vialli on the bench this afternoon and will show that his years at Old Trafford and ensuing success with Chelsea have not quenched his desire for winning.

Opposing him will be Teddy Sheringham, Alex Ferguson's sole major summer buy. The England forward is, like Hughes, the wrong side of 30 and has little to prove in terms of his professional standing, but, like Hughes, he still craves the glory, the limelight and the medals.

Hughes, unlike Sheringham, had to take a footballing step down to maintain his thirst and he confesses that his move from United two years ago could only have been to an ambitious club.

"I had great years at United," he says, "but after leaving them, it was important for me to go to another club where I would be in the public eye and expectations were high. Now that we've won the Cup there are greater expectations and I thrive on that.

"It is just like it was at United when we won the FA Cup in 1990 - that was certainly the catalyst for greater things. I don't know if we can have the same sort of success here that United have had since then, but the main thing is that we do not think we have done it all now we've won the Cup.

"You have to go on and aim for the next one by bringing in quality players, which is what United have always done."

The arrival of more foreign talent at Chelsea shows Gullit's intent, but Hughes's ability to survive and thrive amid his younger international team-mates illustrates how much he yearns to play on as a winner.

That is where Sheringham wants to be for the next few years. He knows that four titles in five years have not sated United's appetite, where it would have filled his former club Tottenham to overflowing.

Alex Ferguson is desperate his younger players, such as Beckham and Gary Neville, are not overused and lose this vital appetite. Although the talents of Beckham would have added spice to today's occasion, Ferguson is aware that there are bigger battles ahead and is willing to rest his midfielder for the opening weeks of the season to keep his powders dry.

Sheringham, however, is ready and knows the United supporters will see him as a direct replacement for Eric Cantona. Not that he seems at all bothered and says he has no plans to turn his collar or nose up at the prospect.

"I can only be me and hopefully that will be good enough. I didn't try and be Gary Lineker when I went to Tottenham and I won't try it here," said Sheringham. "Things are always going to be different when you come to a new club and here you just have to look at the expectations that are placed on United. I've played at big clubs like Tottenham but here coming second is just not good enough. I'm not scared of that pressure. I hope I thrive on it. If this team is going to improve on last season it has to win the League and get to the European Cup final. That's more pressure, but it's nice to have it."

Ferguson is already convinced that he has signed another match-winner in Sheringham and says that Cantona's name has not been mentioned since his retirement at the end of last season.

"Teddy can play in a similar way to Eric and has the stature to come here and not worry about who he has replaced. I think if we had brought in a young player it may have been too much for him," Ferguson says.

That strength through experience is why Gullit has also stuck with Hughes so loyally. And the mutual desire of the two strikers to continue to be regarded as the very best makes them both potential match winners today.

Manchester United (probable): Schmeichel, Irwin, Johnsen, P Neville, Pallister, Scholes, Butt, Keane, Giggs, Sheringham, Cole.

Chelsea (probable): De Goey, Sinclair, Leboeuf, Clarke, Petrescu, Granville, Di Matteo, Poyet, Wise, Hughes, Zola.