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Man Utd, Arsenal lock horns again

August 06, 2004 14:13 IST

Manchester United and Arsenal get an early look at each other's title credentials in the Community Shield at Cardiff's Millennium StadiumĀ on Sunday.

It will be the fourth time the arch-rivals have locked horns in the season's traditional curtain-raiser since 1998, proof of their recent domination of English football.

This year, however, the showpiece clash between the league champions and FA Cup winners has been overshadowed by events on and off the pitch.

Arsenal, who went through last season's league campaign undefeated, look likely to lose inspirational captain Patrick Vieira to Real Madrid.

They also face the prospect of beginning their title defence without defender Sol Campbell and Player of the Year Thierry Henry -- both of whom are injured.

Cup winners United could rest several top names as manager Alex Ferguson prepares for the Champions League third qualifying round game against Dinamo Bucharest three days later.

The Football Association's Cardiff showpiece raiser also comes smack in the middle of one of the most sordid chapters in the ruling body's history.

Tales of deceit and back-stabbing at FA headquarters have dominated British media since it was revealed that England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and chief executive Mark Palios had affairs with secretary Faria Alam.

Palios subsequently resigned and although Eriksson has been cleared to continue in his job, Sunday's match provides a welcome relief for the ruling body.

Whatever teams they field, Wenger and Ferguson will be determined to gain any psychological advantage.

SPICY ATMOSPHERE

Any match involving Arsenal and Manchester United creates a spicy atmosphere, with last year's Community Shield being a prime example.

United won on penalties but the main talking point was Arsenal's Campbell being charged with violent conduct for kicking Eric Djemba-Djemba.

A few weeks later Vieira was sent off during a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, the match ending with an ugly fracas involving several players from either side.

Both clubs will be anxious to avoid any further flare-ups on Sunday when they are likely to parade new signings.

England striker Alan Smith, recruited from relegated Leeds United, will be determined to stake his claims, particularly because Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy has been ruled out for a month with a hernia problem.

Irish midfielder Liam Miller, snapped up on a free from Celtic, could play a part.

Arsenal's transfer dealings have also been overshadowed by big-spending Chelsea, but Gunners fans could get their first glimpse of young French midfielder Mathieu Flamini and former Feyenoord forward Robin van Persie.

They have been Wenger's only major additions and with Parlour, Keown, Nwankwo Kanu and Sylvain Wiltord all departed, Sunday's match may provide the Frenchman with a few useful pointers for the more important battles ahead.

Martyn Herman
Source:
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