Rio Ferdinand has warned Chelsea that Manchester United will use today’s Community Shield clash to prove that they can cope without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.
While neither United boss Sir Alex Ferguson nor Chelsea’s new manager Carlo Ancelotti will read too much into the result of the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season, it is safe to say the focus will be on whether the English champions look a less dominant force now Ronaldo and Tevez are gone.
A world record £80 million (US$133 million) fee for Ronaldo softened the blow of his exit to Real Madrid, but Tevez’s defection to Manchester City still leaves a bitter taste at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo’s goals and incisive wing play helped Ferguson’s team to Premier League and Champions League glory, while Tevez’s priceless ability to snatch a crucial goal after coming off the bench turned countless matches in United’s favor. Yet England star Ferdinand has already seen star names such as David Beckham and Roy Keane depart Old Trafford with little damage to the team and he expects a similar scenario this time.
“A lot of us have been around a few years and seen so many come through the doors and go,” Ferdinand said. “This club moves on from any individual coming and going and that’s the same in this instance. The team is more important than one single player. That has always been the case and will always remain.”
Anderson, United’s Brazilian midfielder, is one of those charged with stepping up now Ronaldo has gone and, like Ferdinand, he has no doubts about his team’s ability to rise to the challenge.
“To win the Community Shield will have a double value. It will be a blow in the face for Chelsea and will also show there is life after Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez,” Anderson said.
Ferguson has signed England striker Michael Owen and Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia to reduce the damage caused by the exit of United’s two emotional leaders.
Valencia had been on Ferguson’s radar for several years, yet the £17 million signing from Wigan Athletic will have to improve his goalscoring record dramatically to fill in for Ronaldo. In truth, Ferguson knows it is almost impossible to buy replacements for unique talents such as Ronaldo and Tevez. Instead he will tweak his tactics to bring the best out of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and the likes of Anderson and Nani. Ferguson must also decide whether Ben Foster or Tomasz Kuszczak will deputize for Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who is sidelined for eight weeks after finger surgery.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti can land an early psychological blow against the team Chelsea have to overhaul to win the title for the first time since 2006. The former AC Milan coach’s success in the Champions League impressed Blues owner Roman Abramovich, but he would dearly love to end United’s three-year reign as English champions as well.
“I think we are ready to start this season against Manchester United on Sunday. It will be a very difficult match, but we are excited and very happy to play at Wembley,” Ancelotti said. “It will be the first time for me to be at Wembley. It is not a friendly game, it is very important for us. We play against a great team. They were in the final of the Champions League last season. We have respect for this team, but we want to win and play well. We want to put our quality on the pitch.”
Ancelotti is likely to be without new signing Yuri Zhirkov as the Russia midfielder makes a slow recovery from a knee injury, but United have injury problems as well, with defenders Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown both sidelined.
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