This year's Community Shield season-starter is the same fixture as last time, when Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-1 on penalties after an entertaining 2-2 draw. The atmosphere at Wembley this afternoon is likely to be markedly different to 12 months ago, however, as the 2010 showpiece also doubles as a return to the national stadium for several of England's notorious World Cup flops.
A year ago John Terry was the England captain as well as Chelsea's. No one had heard of Vanessa Perroncel, or if they had they associated her solely with Wayne Bridge, and Ashley Cole was still married to Cheryl Tweedy. And Frank Lampard was hoping that 2010 was going to be the year he finally scored a World Cup goal...
Yet Carlo Ancelotti, who steered Chelsea to the club's first-ever Double in his debut season in English football, is adamant that none of the soap-opera storylines that will inevitably see his England trio barracked by United supporters will dent his plans to repeat last season's success on the pitch.
Indeed, he even suggested that Terry and Cole were free to carry on creating tabloid headlines via their off-field lifestyles just so long as they continued to be winners on it.
"We are only interested in what happens in training sessions and matches," he said. "We are not interested in what happens outside of our training ground. We never had a problem last year. Some players had private problems but they were not our problems. For them to keep them away from the pitch was good and we want to keep the training ground clear of these problems.
"There are not rules outside this training ground because everyone has his own rules in his private life. We can't put on our players how they have to behave after training."
Roman Abramovich, the club's billionaire owner, may think differently, but Ancelotti insisted Terry and Cole, who was alleged to have declared before the World Cup that he "hated" England and its people, had nothing to prove to him.
"John Terry in the past year has had fantastic behaviour on the pitch," he said. "He has never been nervous or without moti- vation. He has always been in focus. I don't think we will have a problem this season. He has very good control of his emotions.
"The Manchester United fans may boo Ashley Cole but I am not interested. They can do it if they like. Ashley won't have a problem if they do this. Top players – and Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry are top players – are fantastic characters because without that you can't be a top player."
The Chelsea trio will not be the only ones with the post-World Cup spotlight upon them, as Wayne Rooney's inability to live up to his reputation in South Africa was as big a mystery as it was a disappointment. Should Rooney continue to misfire it would help Chelsea's cause but Ancelotti sportingly ventured he hoped would not happen.
"I was surprised because Rooney had a fantastic season," he said of the forward's poor display. "He had an injury just before the end of the season and was not 100 per cent fit at the start of the World Cup.
"But he was not the only one. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Lionel Messi, all the stars of the World Cup missed and we have to know why they missed. I hope Rooney comes back to play his best because he is a fantastic player. Whoever loves football, like me, would like to see Rooney back at 100 per cent."
Disappointment on the biggest stage of all was not confined to the England camp, of course, and another of Ancelotti's players helped create controversial headlines; Nicolas Anelka's one-man revolt against the France coach, Raymond Domenech, quickly escalated to a full-scale mutiny and helped hurry the 2006 finalists towards an ignominious early exit.
Ancelotti was keen to file that incident under M for mystery as well. "I was surprised because I have never had a problem with Nicolas Anelka. He is a professional and a fantastic man. For him that story is closed and he is focused for next season."
The Italian also described Sir Alex Ferguson as "a kind man", recalling how the Scot had sent a message of congratulations once the Premier League had been clinched in May.
The Manchester United manager may already have decided to adopt a less courteous approach this time around but Ancelotti declared himself ready for any subsequent mind games. "Sometimes I like to joke but mostly I prefer to talk about football and tactics and nothing else," he said.
The past five shields
2009: Chelsea 2–2 Manchester United (Chelsea won 4-1 on pens) Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard cancel out Nani's strike. Rooney equalises late on but Chelsea prevail on penalties.
2008: Man United 0–0 Portsmouth (United won 3–1 on penalties) Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick give United shoot-out victory.
2007: Man United 1–1 Chelsea (United won 3-0 on penalties) Edwin van der Sar saves three spot-kicks in a row.
2006: Liverpool 2–1 Chelsea Peter Crouch heads the late winner in Cardiff.
2005: Chelsea 2–1 Arsenal A Didier Drogba double is difference between sides.
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