The Community Shield is an occasion that brings together the winners of the FA Cup and Premier League from the previous season and few would have predicted one of the teams involved in the match at Wembley on Sunday. Manchester United were one of the fancied teams to win the Cup but only the very deluded or loyal would have suggested they would be playing Leicester City in this pre-season fixture.
The Football Association Community Shield and it’s predecessor, the Charity Shield, raises money for community projects. If a team wins the double the runners-up from the Premier League qualify for the match. It is debateable whether it can be classed as an honour but in any case is below the league, Cup and League Cup in the pecking order of trophies on offer in the English domestic game. Most of the teams use the match as a test of fitness after pre-season training and not a do or die fixture.
Manchester United have won the fixture 16 times outright and shared the Shield on four other occasions and they are the winning most team. Leicester City have actually appeared in the match even though they have never won one of the two qualifying competitions. Arsenal won the double in 1971 and Leicester beat Liverpool 1-0 in the next season’s curtain raiser at their own Filbert Street ground. Arsenal had arranged a pre-season friendly that clashed so Leicester were invited as Division Two champions.
If the teams are level after 90 minutes there is no extra-time and the match is decided with a penalty shootout. Since 2000 both teams have scored in 10 fixtures and there have been more than two goals in the same number of matches. Arsenal have won the Community Shield in the last two years as Cup holders, beating the champions on both occasions. In the previous two matches the Premier League winners beat the team that had won the FA Cup.
Leicester achieved the greatest upset in sports betting history by winning the 2015-16 Premier League at odds of 5,000/1. Many small punters cashed out their bets but some let them ride and were paid out at the full odds. Bookmakers lost a fortune on the outright market but probably got it back and more from losing coupons as Leicester kept beating more fancied rivals all season. Many supporters of teams with little or no chance of winning the Premier League will be backing them anyway and lightening does not strike twice, especially when outlandish betting outcomes are involved.
Jose Mourinho has finally landed the job he craved most and will want to start his time at Old Trafford by winning silverware even if it is just the Community Shield. At Chelsea he identified the importance of winning trophies and saw the League Cup as an important stepping stone to winning the Premier League. The Manchester United players will be motivated and despite the events of last season man for man they are a better team than Leicester and can beat them by at least two goals.
The notable arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly make United stronger and potentially more effective than the side that stagnated under Louis Van Gaal. Their finishing league positions since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson have been seventh, fourth and fifth and United have missed out on Champions League football in two of those seasons.
Mourinho has a reputation to repair and he can begin that process by coaching his team to covering a handicap of one goal against Leicester. United had the joint-best defence in the Premier League last season and recorded 18 clean sheets and in David De Gea have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in their side. Marcus Rashford will be looking to build on the remarkable start to his career and overall United should have enough quality to beat Leicester by a margin of more than one goal.
The champions are seventh favourites to retain the title and that is a fair reflection of their ability despite winning the league by ten points. It was a freak season and the old order should be restored beginning with Manchester United winning the Community Shield by more than one goal.