LONDON: Manchester United underlined their determination to hold off the challenge from title rivals Manchester City as Nani’s last-gasp winner clinched a 3-2 victory in the Community Shield.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side trailed 2-0 at half-time after City took advantage of poor goal-keeping from new signing David De Gea to score through Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko.
But the champions tore into City after the break, equalising thanks to goals from Chris Smalling and Nani before the Portuguese winger snatched the stoppage-time winner.
Ferguson has always played down the significance of the Community Shield, but the bitter memories of last season’s FA Cup semi-final defeat against City provided United with more motivation than usual. The manager was delighted at the brilliant fightback by his players.
“Credit to the players, they kept their heads,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “It’s difficult to say whether De Gea should have done better. We have got a really good squad. They have courage to keep the ball and are not intimidated by rough tackling.”
In amongst all the aggression, Ferguson’s side looked the more cohesive unit. Yet it was City who opened the scoring in the 38th minute. David Silva was the provider with a free-kick and Lescott, edging in front of Rio Ferdinand, found enough room to glance a header past De Gea.
Dzeko increased the lead in first-half stoppage time, taking possession 25 yards from goal as the Bosnian tried his luck with a long-range effort. There was power in Dzeko’s strike but De Gea should still have saved it. Instead he dived late and the ball flashed past his out-stretched arm.
Ferguson made three changes at half-time, hauling off Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick, and United were back in the game when Young curled in a free-kick, allowing Smalling to run free and the defender had yards of space to volley past Joe Hart.
United equalised with a breathtaking move in the 58th minute. Nani started with a pass to Rooney and the forward clipped the ball onto Tom Cleverley, whose return allowed Nani to burst past Hart and lift a finish into the roof of the net.
There was a sting in the tail as United punted a clearance down-field from a City corner. Nani was the only United player near the ball and he sprinted clear to round Hart and slotted home the winner.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.