Ferguson acclaims another victory for his youth policy

 

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Sir Alex Ferguson last night claimed vindication against those who have questioned his belief in youth, as one of the youngest Manchester United sides to perform at Wembley secured the Community Shield and a crucial psychological blow against Manchester City.

After coming from behind to record a 3-2 injury time win, which Wayne Rooney tweeted was "a footballing lesson" for City and a "great win for the champions", Ferguson returned to the criticism he received in the depths of last autumn's struggles to claim he had proved his detractors wrong. "For us [this] just confirms what I thought about the squad," Ferguson said. "People were saying it was not the best United squad and things like that but you have to remember a lot of young players will improve. We have bought [Tom] Cleverley back [from Wigan], Danny Welbeck [from Sunderland] and [Mame] Diouf [from Blackburn]. These young players are the future."

City's own young hope – 20-year-old Mario Balotelli – attracted more controversy by marching straight from the field after being substituted, prompting former United captain Gary Neville to say: "Balotelli is an embarrassment to the club. Mancini spends 25 per cent of press conferences talking about him. I could understand it if he was scoring 25 goals a season." Balotelli returned pitchside, and appeared to have been ordered back, but Mancini said: "None of my staff told him to come back. I was concentrating on the game. I think he can do his job better. He can play better than he did today."

The contribution of 21-year-old Cleverley, who arrived with Phil Jones and Jonny Evans after an interval which had City 2-0 up, was excellent. He provided a crucial touch for United's sublime equaliser – a contrast to Balotelli's latest histrionics. Ferguson insisted at the height of the Rooney contract saga on October 20, when the striker had publicly questioned the United acquisition policy, that: "People don't identify potential. They're very poor at it. I've identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity." He was vindicated here: before Dimitar Berbatov arrived in the 89th minute, debutant Ashley Young was the oldest player in a United side then being captained by 21-year-old Rafael.

Ferguson refused to criticise his 20-year-old debutant David de Gea, despite his failure to gather a swerving ball which allowed Edin Dzeko to extend City's lead. De Gea conceded more goals from outside the box than any other goalkeeper last season in La Liga, at Atletico Madrid, but Ferguson insisted: "The ball swerved a little bit. We could have closed the [striker] down. It caught the goalkeeper on the wrong foot." Ferguson said he did not feel this win helped his side, psychologically. "You can never be confident with the strength of this Premier League."

Roberto Mancini, who is likely to step up his pursuit of Arsenal's Samir Nasri and Fiorentina's Alessio Cerci this week, said the defeat would not affect City's mental edge. "No, no, no. I don't think this," he said. "I think it will be important for us to understand why we lost this game. We need to have a strong mentality." Mancini, who rejected Italian reports of a move for Internazionale's Wesley Sneijder, added: "I thought they played better than us. When you go up 2-0 you need to control the game. The correct result was 2-2 but this is football."

Rooney added: "They [City] are wanting to try and fight us for that title and today I think there was only one team that was going to win."

And the winners are...

Manchester United's victory set down a marker for the title contenders. In five of the last six seasons the winner of the Community Shield has gone on to win the Premier League.

Shield Winner / Title Winner

2005-06

Chelsea / Chelsea

2006-07

Liverpool / Man United

2007-08

Man United / Man United

2008-09

Man United / Man United

2009-10

Chelsea / Chelsea

2010-11

Man United / Man United

2011-/12

Man United / ?????

The Community Shield has not been won by the previous season's FA Cup winners since 2001.

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