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English Premiership

Advantage Man U

LONDON, August 9 – Manchester United delivered an early blow to title rivals Chelsea with a 3-1 victory over the Premier League champions in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have spent the close-season licking their wounds after being pipped to the title by the Blues, but they underlined their determination to regain the crown with a ruthless display in the annual curtain-raiser to the English top-flight season.

A first half goal from Antonio Valencia put United in front and new signing Javier Hernandez added the second after the break.

Salomon Kalou got one back for Chelsea, but Dimitar Berbatov’s late strike ensured United have the early momentum heading into the new campaign.

Berbatov’s goal was the product of a 20-pass move.

"It’s my first goal of the season, so it’s a really good day," said the Bulgarian.

"Now we will celebrate and wait for our first league game against Newcastle next week. We have a great team spirit, we are like one big family."

This may have been no more than a glamourous friendly, but there was definite edge to the match as these two old rivals tried to land a psychological blow ahead of the Premier League kick-off on Saturday.

Wayne Rooney responded to jeers from Chelsea fans with a superb cross-field pass towards Valencia, who out-paced the stumbling Ashley Cole but couldn’t quite lift his chip over Henrique Hilario.

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Valencia turned provider moments later as the Ecuador winger picked out Paul Scholes 10 yards from goal, only for the veteran midfielder to volley well over.

Ancelotti’s double winners, who beat United in the Shield last season, threatened when Nicolas Anelka’s powerful long-range effort tested Edwin van der Sar.

Branislav Ivanovic forced van der Sar into a much more difficult save when the Serbian defender towered above Nemanja Vidic to meet Malouda’s free-kick with a bullet header.

Rooney had been one of England’s most disappointing performers in South Africa, where he looked completely devoid of his usual enthusiasm.

Back in a United shirt he was once again the effervescent figure who terrorised defences last season.

He covered large parts of the pitch in the first half, shooting just wide from a tight angle before chasing back tenaciously to break up a Chelsea attack.

Inevitably, Rooney played a key role when United took the lead in the 41st minute.

Scholes, in sublime form, spotted Rooney’s run to the right edge of the Chelsea penalty area and found him with a long pass that dropped in behind Cole.

John Terry had tracked Rooney and the striker took advantage by whipping a low cross into the area vacated by the Chelsea captain.

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Valencia, having sprinted clear of Cole, found himself in yards of space and met Rooney’s superb delivery with a cool finish past Hilario.

That was Rooney’s last contribution as Ferguson sent on Hernandez, Berbatov and Nani at half-time.

Chelsea have been below their best during a pre-season marred by three successive defeats and Carlo Ancelotti’s team were missing Didier Drogba’s imposing presence, so it was no surprise when the Ivorian came off the bench after an hour.

Drogba’s arrival gave extra impetus to the Blues and Michael Essien went close for Chelsea with a curling strike from outside the penalty area.

Another chance went when Cole shot straight at van der Sar after the United goalkeeper spilled Paulo Ferreira’s cross.

Ancelotti brought on Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun, a close-season signing from Liverpool, for the last 18 minutes, but it was United who scored again in the 76th minute.

Valencia escaped Cole on the wing and drilled over a low cross that Hernandez converted at the far post in comical fashion, the Mexican slipping as he shot and seeing the ball bounce off his foot and onto his head before flying into the net.

Ivory Coast striker Kalou reduced the deficit in the 83rd minute when he tapped-in after van der Sar palmed Daniel Sturridge’s shot into his path.

But United had the last word as Berbatov took Nani’s pass in stoppage time and floated a perfect chip over Hilario to seal the win.

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