Paul Parker

City can make their mark

Paul Parker

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Sunday's Community Shield is the most highly anticipated edition of the competition for a long, long time. There is a lot to be taken from the game for the two sides, who will be keen to strike a psychological blow at the outset of the campaign.

I honestly do think that a good win for either Manchester City or Manchester United would have a big impact. It would alter perceptions of the team from the outside and boost confidence from within.

Generally as a player you do not consider the Community Shield to be a hugely important fixture. It is a game that is not perceived to be as significant as the games that immediately follow it. But this feels different.

Two or three years ago a Manchester United v Manchester City fixture wouldn't attract this kind of attention outside of the city itself, but given the increase in stature of the junior partner in the rivalry, it is now capturing the imagination of a much bigger audience.

The fact that it is a derby match has lent extra importance to the occasion and it has been great news for the FA because there has been so much attention around the game. Unfortunately both clubs and their fans have to traipse all the way down to London for the fixture, and common sense would have suggested playing the game at Villa Park. But common sense and the FA don't always go hand-in-hand.

Sir Alex will not want to lose to Manchester City in his first proper game of the 2011-12 season so he will be taking it very seriously, you can take that for granted.

Both teams must try and win this game, as despite it being largely meaningless there is plenty at stake: it features the two teams that I think will be in contention for the title this season.

Chelsea haven't done enough in the transfer market to demonstrate that they will improve on last season, when their challenge was marred by inconsistency. We have heard big talk from John Terry but you can't really take what he says for granted.

Arsenal have their obvious failings and Liverpool have invested in potential, rather than proven quality. The path is clear for City to possibly take United's crown away from them.

It may be too soon to make that kind of statement, but we will be able to draw some conclusions from the Community Shield about the rest of the season.

How strong those conclusions are depends on the relative strength of the sides put out by Mancini and Ferguson. If they field a mixture of regulars and fringe players then it will be more difficult.

Some say the match will have no impression on the rest of the campaign, but if we have two strong sides both looking to win, and two managers who demonstrate that it means something to them as well, then it could be a good insight into the respective strengths of the teams.

Of course, Mancini was inclined to be conservative last season - he had a ready-made excuse against United when packing the midfield - but on Sunday he could go two up top and prove to all his detractors that he has learned from last season, and prove that City have the ambition to win the Premier League.

If City had been a bit braver against the bigger sides they could have pushed for the title in what was a poor year in terms of quality in the Premier League. The top teams were not consistently winning games so, to an extent, that was a missed opportunity for City.

Mancini might also choose to rest some of his big guns - Carlos Tevez is on holiday and Sergio Aguero will start on the bench - but he has the chance to make a real statement and, if he does take the initiative, he could leave a mark on City's big rivals at the start of the season.

If City do come out of their shell and prove they can sustain a title challenge then it will only serve to intensify the rivalry between the two clubs.

Liverpool is still the big game for Manchester United fans but City are certainly getting closer in that respect and this season will be important in fuelling the rivalry again, starting with Sunday. After all, if City finish above United in the league then perhaps the Manchester derby will become the most important once again.

City might have more money but, because of the personalities they have in the dressing room, I still think United have the edge.

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