Europe: Milan and United make statement against local foes
The weekend played host to two of the world’s most intense local derbies as the teams involved fought for the honours in their respective national Super Cup tournaments. Whereas the Italian Super Cup saw two clubs who are virtually equal in all respects face up to each other in the shape of league champions AC Milan and cup winners Internazionale, the same couldn’t be said in its English equivalent which saw record champions Manchester United meet up once again with local foes Manchester City with the latter finally demanding more respect from their more illustrious neighbours having won the FA Cup last season.
The National Stadium in the Chinese capital of Beijing, more commonly known as the Bird’s Nest stadium due to its design, played host to the Italian Super Cup for the second time in three years with Milanese neighbours AC Milan and Internazionale hoping to become the first club to win Italian football’s curtain raising fixture for the sixth time. AC Milan won their 18th Scudetto last season, thus equalling Inter’s number of title triumphs, but hadn’t won the Super Cup since 2004 whereas Internazionale, whose run of five straight Scudetti came to an end last season, were playing in their seventh consecutive Super Cup fixture having won either the domestic league or cup (if not both) every season since 2005.
In a contest which threatened to boil over at times, the Nerazzurri of Inter took the lead after 22 minutes thanks to a Wesley Sneijder free-kick in what could possibly be the Dutchman’s last appearance in an Inter shirt before a speculated move to one of the Manchester clubs becomes a reality. There would, however, be no fairy tale win with which Sneijder could seal his time at the San Siro as the Rossoneri came fighting back in the second half when both Zlatan Ibrahimović and Kevin-Prince Boateng got their names on the score sheet to give coach Massimiliano Allegri his second trophy at AC Milan since he took charge at the beginning of last season. For new Inter coach Gian Piero Gasperini, who joined the blue half of Milan from Genoa this season, it proved to be a disappointing start to life at the helm. He will now have some idea as to what will be required to keep his team at the top of the tree and he will need to put it into practice as soon as the league campaign kicks off in two weeks’ time if he is to knock AC Milan off their perch. The champions will begin their campaign away at Cagliari whilst Inter have a home tie against Lecce.
Twenty four hours after the “Derby della Madonnina” had finished its English counterpart took place at Wembley Stadium. League champions Manchester United, who sealed a record breaking 19th championship last season, were hoping to claim the FA Community Shield for the fourth time in five seasons but faced opposition from “noisy neighbours” Manchester City who were appearing in this fixture for the first time in 38 years having finally won a trophy of their own last season in the form of the FA Cup. The two Manchester clubs had previously met in this fixture once before in 1956 when a Dennis Viollet goal sealed the win for United, a result which the Blues were hoping to reverse this time around. They gave themselves a great chance of doing just that when goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Džeko late in the first half gave City a 2-0 half-time lead. However it was perhaps predictable that the champions would come back to win the game as only they seem capable of doing. Chris Smalling pulled one back seven minutes into the second half whilst Nani equalized six minutes later. United piled the pressure upon City and it seemed that the game would go into extra-time before Vincent Kompany’s defensive error allowed Nani to go through at goal and go around keeper Joe Hart to seal the 3-2 victory for the Red Devils with virtually the last kick of the game. Yet an ominous sign to the rest of the Premier League that no matter what changes Sir Alex Ferguson makes to his side that he always comes out smiling in the end.
Manchester United duly won a record extending 19th FA Community Shield and now face up to an away match at West Bromwich Albion in their defence of the Premier League title. Manchester City will want to bounce back from this defeat quickly with a home tie against newly=promoted Swansea City next Monday evening.