RVP kickstarts Reds season

Manchester United 2 Wigan Athletic 0

For all the easy headlines, he did not quite see this as starting the new era with a trophy.

“I class that as another piece of silverware for Alex really. It was his team that won the Premier League by 13, 15 points last year. I see today as for Alex really. I was in charge today. But the ones going forward will be down to me.”

Whether Moyes’ Manchester United are ready to do that was the real big question yesterday at Wembley. Because, otherwise, the Community Shield was as predictable as you might expect from a fixture between two sides with such drastically different statuses. The English champions won without getting out of second gear and Robin van Persie continued his first-class form from last season. The seventh-minute header illustrated his technical perfection while the deflected second displayed the kind of problems he can always force.

Within all of that, though, this fixture was perhaps more interesting for what it said about how Moyes is handling a few problems of his own. The most pertinent issue involves the man Van Persie usurped in status. In naturally happy form after winning such a game, Moyes began answering all the inevitable questions about Wayne Rooney with a joke.

“You don’t think I am going to send England a fit player?” The quip was in response to the apparent inconsistency that Rooney will be ready to play against Scotland for his country on Wednesday, but not in sufficient health to start United’s season opener the following Saturday away to Swansea City. By the end, as the questions increased, the atmosphere changed. Moyes’ attitude also moved from stand-up to stern.

“Wayne has trained and some of you might not like hearing this, but I did not fall out with Wayne. Some of you wrote untruths. Wayne played with the reserves at his asking. He couldn’t have contact because of a shoulder injury.

“I want him to join up. He trained with us yesterday. He is not ready. You will see that in the game. He is coming back, he is breaking himself back into the team, and it will be great for him to get some playing time.”

When asked whether he was sick of being asked about the situation, Moyes at least had another jibe.

“I am enjoying talking about it. I am hearing so many of you getting it wrong. And I know most of you and I am thinking ‘you are cleverer than that’.”

Moyes was then himself quizzed whether it is wise to keep a player who so desperately and evidently wants to leave. The United manager was equally defiant.

“It’s just what I said. He is not for sale. It is not changing. That’s the answer to your question.”

One school of thought is that United may be prepared to sell Rooney once they finally complete their own transfer business. Their difficulty in the market, however, has been one of the themes of the summer. The complications were revealed by the way in which Moyes claimed the club were “closer” to bringing people in but still happy to go forward with what they’ve got, and apparently encapsulated by the wishful pursuit of Cesc Fabregas.

“I think Manchester United go after the best players in the world,” Moyes said of the saga, “and Cesc comes into a class very close to that.”

As competent as United were on the day and as excellent as Van Persie was in general, there was an ever so slight staleness to their overall play. It is the kind of issue usually solved by fresh faces. At the least, Zaha offered some fizz on the wing.

It is also surprising that Ireland’s James McCarthy has not yet moved up a level since Wigan’s relegation to the Championship in May. New boss Owen Coyle claimed the club “haven’t had any enquiries or bids” for the midfielder, while praising the contribution of James McClean. There was one significant caveat to that, however, as Coyle had a line about the winger’s need to “focus on football”.

Moyes would doubtless prefer to do the same. The problem is that all the off-field issues may go a long way to influencing whether United closes the season the way they have now begun it.

MANCHESTER UNITED: De Gea 6; Rafael 7 (Smalling 16; 7), Jones 6, Vidic 6, Evra 7; Cleverley 6, Carrick 8, Giggs 8 (Anderson 67; 6); Zaha 7 (Valencia 61; 7), Welbeck 7 (Kagawa 83; 6), Van Persie 9 (Januzaj 84; 6).

WIGAN ATHLETIC: Carson 6; Crainey 6, Barnett 6, Perch 5, Boyce 6; McCarthy 6 (Dicko 86; 6), Watson 6 (Espinoza 71; 6), McArthur 6 (McCann 60; 6); Holt 5 (Fortune 60; 5), Maloney 6 (Gomez 71; 5), McClean 5 (McManaman 60; 5).

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