Paul Parker

Chelsea recruitment gives them the edge

Paul Parker

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The Community Shield may be played for charitable causes, but that doesn't mean it isn't an important game.

Certainly in terms of performance, Sunday's curtain-raiser to the new season is hugely significant.

It gives the two sides a chance to show how they have improved over the summer and a decent run-out will give them a springboard to get the new campaign off on the right foot.

The performance will have a bearing on how the players approach their first games of the season, and it will give the manager a real insight into what is left to be done before the big kick-off.

You can never judge how a team will do from their pre-season friendlies, but the Community Shield is different. It's a competitive game that neither side want to lose and both managers will send out their best possible teams.

This year's game is particularly attractive as it pits last season's top two in the Premier League against each other. It will be interesting to see what progress has been made in both camps over the summer.

Chelsea were clearly the better side last season and deservedly won the Double; it is down to United to up their game this time around if they are to wrest either crown from Carlo Ancelotti's grip.

The trouble is that United have done little to improve their squad over the summer. So far, Alex Ferguson has brought in just two players, Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling.

Neither are the kind of signings that will give United that missing edge over their rivals. Hernandez has done well in pre-season, he looks pacy and knows where the goal is, but I'm not sure he has what it takes just yet to take United to that required next level.

Nevertheless, I'd start with him alongside Wayne Rooney on Sunday, with Dimitar Berbatov on the bench. At the moment he's somewhat of an unknown quantity and that may upset Chelsea.

Smalling is another for the future; he just hasn't got the experience at the moment to deal with the likes of Didier Drogba.

Traditionally, United's strength has always come down the middle, right through from the keeper to the centre forward, but they were lacking last season.

Rooney badly needed support up front, the centre of midfield all too often performed poorly and there were real question marks over the off-form and unfit centre-halves for much of the season.

Considering United ended last season a little stale - they even lost a bit of the fear factor that has affected visitors to Old Trafford for so long - it's surprising that so little has been done to address those problem areas. 

Chelsea meanwhile have made two significant additions to their squad this summer - Ramires and Yossi Benayoun.

Unlike United's pair of new recruits, both Chelsea signings can expect to play week in, week out.

Ramires looks like a great player. Pacy, strong and versatile, he is an excellent replacement for Michael Ballack.

And Benayoun too is an upgrade - on Joe Cole. The former Liverpool man injects energy into a game and can weigh in with his fair share of goals. But the real attraction is his ability to lay on goals for others. Drogba is going to love playing with him.

Ancelotti clearly didn't fancy Cole, but he is a big fan of Benayoun and the Israeli can expect to get far more playing time than he did at Anfield. And that can only benefit Drogba and Chelsea.

Considering how they ended last season and their activity in the transfer market since, Chelsea certainly have the edge going into Sunday's game. And unless their rivals pull off something spectacular before the transfer window closes, that could remain true for the rest of the season.

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