David Moyes has already succeeded where Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby failed, by winning a trophy in his first season as Manchester United manager.
Scorer: Manchester United - Van Persie (6, 59)
Of course it isn’t one of those he most covets, but it will do for starters, particularly given the sense that he was operating under a degree of pressure in his first high-profile match in charge of the Old Trafford club.
While this might seem a faintly ludicrous notion just a series of friendlies into his reign, there could be no denying that some disappointing results combined with the lack of signing activity had contributed to some unease among the United faithful. While victory in this season’s curtain-raiser was gladly received, it wasn’t without its setbacks, as United posted a pair of worrying casualties.
Rafael limped off after just 16 minutes, while Wilfried Zaha, due to play for England against Scotland on Wednesday night, also hobbled off just after the second goal in Robin van Persie’s match-winning brace.
The post-Sir Alex Ferguson era was always going to take some time to settle down. A player who was a significant reason why Moyes’ illustrious predecessor could depart on such a high was the inspiration for this victory. Two typically opportunistic finishes by Van Persie quelled any resistance from Wigan Athletic, who, three months to the day from their FA Cup victory over Manchester City, found the going harder against another team from the same city.
They are, of course, not just any other team. They are Manchester United. Defeat was not to be borne for Moyes, particularly because the opponents have dropped into the Championship since that famous day in May. They have also changed managers. On his first major appointment as United manager, Moyes was greeted by a friendly face in Owen Coyle, who grew up just 12 miles away from him in Glasgow. Denis Law, meanwhile, was introduced to both teams at the start.
In Darren Fletcher’s continued absence, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s interest lay in how Wigan’s Scots fared. Shaun Maloney and James McArthur are in the squad for the friendly at Wembley, though the third in the trio of Scottish starters, former Celtic and Blackpool full-back Stephen Crainey, is not.
In truth, this was not a particularly revealing test. Strachan was not even present to watch. If nothing else, however, it at least gave McArthur and Maloney another opportunity to gauge the length of stud required for Wednesday’s encounter.
The conditions perhaps contributed to the rather strange, downbeat atmosphere. Fitness might also have been an issue on turf that looked long, lush and energy sapping. Whatever the reason, and despite the pre-match razzmatazz, the game failed to ignite.
This wasn’t a Wembley match for the ages, put it that way. Most of the talking points were connected to events away from the pitch. Perhaps the game did not have a chance of directing attention away from such intriguing issues as Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United future.
The player was not involved yesterday due to a shoulder injury that seems a handy excuse for both parties involved in a long-running transfer dispute, the gist of which is: Rooney wants away, and Moyes doesn’t want to sell him, certainly not to championship rivals in the form of Chelsea, and a preening Jose Mourinho.
In Rooney’s continued absence, great things are being expected of Zaha. The 20-year-old started yesterday, wearing canary-coloured boots. On the other flank was Ryan Giggs, who, at 39, is beginning yet another campaign. Remarkably, yesterday was his 14th Community/Charity shield match.
Despite the humidity and the fact that he was up against players nearly 20 years younger than him, he was among the better performers before being withdrawn after 67 minutes. Could this have been his last Wembley appearance? Both he and Moyes will hope not.
There were some revealing moments that provided some insight to how Moyes wants the veteran to contribute this season. Giggs could be seen encouraging and advising Zaha, particularly after one injudicious back-heel by the youngster dangerously gifted possession of the ball to Wigan.
Even when they had the ball, Wigan looked unable to hurt United, who had gone ahead after only six minutes. Van Persie elegantly swept the ball wide to Patrice Evra. When the left-back returned the favour, Van Persie was there to head the ball down into the corner of Scott Carson’s net. Crainey, sadly, looked like the man responsible for allowing him a free header.
Wigan did have the opportunity to equalise ten minutes from the interval. James McClean pounced on some uncertainty by Chris Smalling, who had replaced Rafael, but, with the chance to either go for goal or cross for a team-mate, he opted to blast the ball across the six yard box. If it was a shot, it was embarrassingly miscued.
Van Persie showed him how it was done with the second strike, which was swept in from the edge of the box, although the ball was helped on its way into net by a hefty deflection off centre-half James Perch.
Manchester Utd: De Gea, Rafael (Smalling 16), Jones, Vidic, Evra, Cleverley, Carrick, Giggs (Anderson 67), Zaha (Valencia 61), Van Persie (Januzaj 84), Welbeck (Kagawa 83). Subs not used: Evans, Lindegaard.
Wigan Athletic: Carson, Boyce, Barnett, Perch, Crainey, McArthur (McCann 60), Watson (Espinoza 71), McCarthy (Dicko 86), Maloney (Gomez 71), Holt (Fortune 60), McClean (McManaman 60).