United fall back on a gritty display

Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1 (Man Utd win 4-2 on pens)
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The Independent Online
This was a Charity Shield which confirmed rather than revealed, intrigued rather than thrilled. Settled on a penalty shoot-out, its importance was underlined by the sight of Alex Ferguson and Ruud Gullit, arms around shoulders, sharing a joke as Nicky Butt prepared to take the winning kick.

Both managers knew that the hard work lay ahead, but each could feel reasonably content with the pre-season work. Each admitted the game had too many mistakes to be a good one, but there was enough promise to hint at better performances. "I'm not disappointed," Gullit said . "If we can compete with the top that is satisfactory. Penalties are a lottery and my judgment will be purely on what went on in the game.

"Both teams didn't play well. It was a festival of bad passing and mistakes. In fact, United were more dangerous when we had the ball than when they had it."

Ferguson agreed about the quality of the game, and described it an "an average performance" by United. "I thought it was a poor game. I think Wembley does find you out and there were a lot of careless mistakes by both sides. We've seven days now to prepare for the Tottenham game and I think we will be much better."

Chelsea will clearly be contenders, their newcomers, Gustavo Poyet and Ed de Goey, justified their advance reputations and their young players continue to develop. Yet United remain the standard. Behind to a 52nd- minute goal by Mark Hughes, they showed their continuing appetite for the fray by responding within five minutes through Ronny Johnson and finishing stronger. It was not without justification that their supporters sang "we shall not be moved" as Roy Keane accepted the trophy.

Chelsea, founded as an "instant" big club in 1905, have always shared United's aspirations but rarely their achievements. That was underlined by this being United's 18th Charity Shield and Chelsea's second. "We can beat United in one-off games but the thing which has let us down is consistency," Mark Hughes noted beforehand. "Maybe winning the FA Cup could be a catalyst like the first title was at United."

Chelsea's confidence has certainly grown. They were the better side for much of the first half and never overawed. Gianfranco Zola looked in excellent form and Hughes was as indomitable as ever. At the back, Steve Clarke was foot-perfect and even the prosaic Frank Sinclair justified his unexpected inclusion ahead of Dan Petrescu.

United's new face, Teddy Sheringham, had a mixed game. There were good moments, notably a pass which set up Paul Scholes after six minutes, but for much of the game he was more interested in arguing with Dennis Wise who was in irritation mode. Sheringham was eventually replaced by a lively- looking Jordi Cruyff.

"He'll be realising all the games are difficult because they are really high tempo," Ferguson said of Sheringham. "Once he adjusts he'll be a really good player for us."

Sheringham has wisely decided not to wear Eric Cantona's No 7, yet while he lacks Cantona's presence he is a similar player. Equally comfortable dropping deep, he is a fine short and long passer with an eye for an opening. Like Cantona he is a good header of the ball with clever movement in the box but lacks pace and is less happy as a lone forward. His distance shooting is better, his penalty-taking record less so, although it is still respectable. Cantona may be marginally the more imaginative and gifted player but, on the evidence of the last two years his is a declining talent while Sheringham is at his peak.

Ferguson said it was strange not to have Cantona in the team any more, but refused to linger in the past. "It was a great era with Eric in the team, but we have got to look forward and the young players are emerging."

The man United would really miss is Keane. Yesterday he was as magnificent as ever, only putting a foot wrong once when he planted it on the side of Poyet's head. It was a result of enthusiasm rather than malice but he was fortunate not to be booked. As captain, he was not shy of giving Sheringham a bollocking for not chasing back after losing possession.

"He is a leader," Ferguson said. "I think he will be a good captain for us."

The game was unexceptional, while there was plenty of neat interplay there were few genuine chances. In the first period De Goey stood up well to save Scholes' volley from Sheringham's pass, Pallister made an outstanding interception as Zola shaped to shoot, and Poyet drifted a header wide from a Dennis Wise corner. United responded with a dangerous Sheringham cross which Danny Granville did well to clear.

Granville's inclusion, like that of Jody Morris, supports Gullit's claim that, despite his penchant for foreigners, good English players will come through. Signed last spring from Cambridge, Granville is rapidly emerging as a rival to Phil Neville's position as heir apparent to Stuart Pearce and Graeme Le Saux on England's left flank. He looked composed and talented although he occasionally made naive errors.

One of those gave Scholes another chance late on but, by then, more senior players had conceded goals. Peter Schmeichel and Pallister appeared at fault as Hughes rose, unchallenged, to head in Zola's tapped corner to put Chelsea ahead. Then Chelsea's central defence allowed Johnsen to score his first United goal from Ryan Giggs' corner. It went to penalties with the crucial miss coming from Roberto Di Matteo, last May's FA Cup final hero. It was a timely reminder that last season is now history.

Goals: M Hughes (52) 1-0; Johnsen (57) 1-1.

Chelsea (4-4-2): De Goey; Sinclair, Lebouef, Clarke, Granville; Wise, Morris (Petrescu, h-t), Poyet, Di Matteo; M Hughes (Vialli, 76), Zola.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Irwin, Johnsen, Pallister, P Neville; Scholes, Keane, Butt, Giggs (Beckham, 72); Sheringham (Cruyff, 72), Cole.

Referee: P Jones (Loughborough) Attendance: 73,636

Bookings: Chelsea Sinclair, Wise, Petrescu. Manchester United Sheringham.

Man of the match: Keane. Penalties: Sinclair (saved) 0-0; Scholes 0-1; Zola 1-1; Irwin 1-2; Di Matteo (miss) 1-2; Keane 1-3; Lebouef 2-3; Butt 2-4.

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