KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: Sir Alex Ferguson needed four seasons to win a trophy with Manchester United; successor David Moyes needed only one competitive match as his new team beat Wigan Athletic 2-0 in the closing stages of the FA Community Shield here.
The meeting of the Premier champions and last season’s relegated FA Cup-winners had been overtaken as a curtain-raiser to the new term since the lower three divisions were already nine days into competition. But that was a mere technicality which will not worry United and their new manager in the slightest.
If it was strange to see United walking out at Wembley without Ferguson at their head, the team were quickly into their usual stride. Only six minutes had elapsed before Robin Van Persie fed Patrice Evra then arrowed into the penalty box to head Unted into the lead from the Frenchman’s left-wing cross.
Moyes had irritated the absent Wayne Rooney during pre-season by talking up the Dutchman’s status as No1 striker at the club. But the alacrity with which Van Persie accepted the opportunity suggested he will be as hungry as ever to improve on the 30 goals (26 in the league) harvested in his first term hail for United.
The Rooney issue remains Moyes’s greatest challenge. A shoulder injury saw Rooney left to train this past week with the reserves. He was not fit enough for Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial on Friday or here at Wembley though Moyes expects him to play for England against Scotland at Wembley on Wednesday.
Moyes may be hoping a return to match action may ease Rooney’s impatience for a new adventure. Certainly no more transfer talk will be entertained until, at least, after United play Chelsea in two weeks’ time.
Rooney’s absence apart, United lined up what might be assumed to be Moyes’s likely preferred starting line-up.
Recurring injury problems last season may mean veteran Ferdinand has to play second fiddle to Phil Jones in the centre of defence. This time that ploy was disrupted, however, after 15 minutes when Rafael limped off and Jones moved to rightback with Chris Smalling coming into central defence.
England under-21 starlet Wilfried Zaha started wide right with veteran Ryan Giggs on the other flank. The need to use Giggs sparingly may mean Zaha, Luis Valencia and Ashley Young contesting the two wing slots.
Wigan were also under new management with Owen Coyle having taken over after Roberto Martinez was lured away to fill the slot left by Moyes at Everton.
Coyle’s new team created occasional moments of angst for United in the first half, largely through the determined running of James McClean on the left wing. They created no serious danger for David De Gea, however, and United took an even firmer grip on the game through Van Persie’s second goal after 58 minutes.
This time the assist came from Rooney’s deputy, Danny Welbeck, and Van Persie swivelled on the edge of the penalty box before shooting in with the aid of a deflection off James Perch to secure United the trophy for a 16th time outright.
One newcomer went untested: this was the first official match in which goal-line technology is being used among the English football elite. The decision of Van Persie’s strikes into the back of the net had left no room for doubt.
Manchester Utd: De Gea – Rafael da Silva (Smalling 16), Jones, Vidic, Evra – Zaha (Valencia 59), Carrick, Cleverly, Giggs (Anderson 66) – Van Persie, Welbeck. Manager: Moyes
Wigan: Carson – Boyce, Barnett, Perch, Crainey – Maloney (Espinoza 71), McArthur (McCann 59), Watson (Jordi Gomez 71), McClean (McManaman 59) – McCarthy – Holt (Fortune 59). Manager: Coyle
Goal: Van Persie (6.).
Attendance: 75 000