Vialli recovered from the strain of mad calf disease which has also afflicted his new manager to earn his week's pounds 20,000 wages with a second-half introduction at the City Ground. His appearance cannot have been a welcome sight for Ajax, who last saw him when he raised aloft the European Cup in Rome's Stadio Olimpico on 22 May. They need not have fretted.
Vialli made little impression. An attempted lob and two tame finishes, comfortably saved by Edwin van der Sar, was the sum total of his expensive creative contribution. Not that the Chelsea faithful in the 21,760 crowd were bothered. Their side already had the game won by the break, thanks to the first-half influence of the other Italian in Ruud Gullit's cosmopolitan Chelsea set.
Roberto Di Matteo proved his worth by delivering the two perceptive through- balls which allowed Dennis Wise, in the fifth minute, and Dan Petrescu, in the 16th, to shoot past the exposed Van der Sar. Chelsea also had to thank goalkeeper Dimitri Kharin for stopping Ajax with two first-half saves when first Nordin Wooter and then Kiki Musampa bore down on his goal.
The silencing of the Dutch band, which had started the afternoon by striking up a chorus of "Happy days are here again," was a confirmation of Chelsea's success. But Gullit maintained: "This is just the beginning. The only thing that matters is our first game against Southampton. Pre-season doesn't count."
Alex Ferguson doubtless left Nottingham wishing pre-season did not exist. Manchester United, trailing to Kevin Campbell's 19th-minute goal, scored three times in the last seven minutes - courtesy of David Beckham, Brian McClair and Philip Neville - to beat Nottingham Forest 3-1 and salvage third place. But Roy Keane and Ronny Johnsen suffered first-half injuries to join a list of wounded and ailing which includes Ryan Giggs, Andy Cole and Gary Pallister.
On the plus side for Ferguson, Karel Poborsky and Jordi Cruyff will be available for the Charity Shield meeting with Newcastle on Sunday, before which the cheque book may be utilised again. "You never know," Ferguson said. "But we certainly won't be signing Patrick Kluivert."
Last season's Double winners lacked a focal point for their attacks again yesterday, though the introduction of a new No 9 enlivened a team which had bordered on the statuesque in their 2-1 defeat by Ajax on Saturday. Nicky Butt, however, was the hub (rather than the butt) of the United side in midfield.
The No 9 the champions really wanted will be paraded in black and white tomorrow, and Ferguson could not help but betray his envy when he was asked the best way to beat Manchester United. "Some people try to spend money to do it," came the reply.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharin; Petrescu, Leboeuf (E Johnsen, h-t), Clarke, Phelan; Morris (Vialli, h-t), Di Matteo (Burley, h-t), Wise, Minto; Hughes, Myers.
Ajax (4-4-2): Van der Sar; Juan, Marcio Santos, Blind (Willems, 22), F De Boer; Scholten, Wooters, Witschge (Louhenapessy, h-t), Turpjin (Van den Bergh, h-t); R De Boer, Musampa.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2): Crossley; Lyttle, Cooper, Jerkan (Chettle, 70), Pearce; McGregor (Howe, 60), Haland, Bart-Williams, Woan (Allen, 77); Campbell, Roy.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel (Van der Gouw, h-t); G Neville (Casper, 75), R Johnsen (McGibbon, 42), May, P Neville; Beckham, Butt, Keane (Davies, 35), Sharpe (McClair, 75); Cantona, Scholes.Reuse content