Ancelotti strikes first blow
Wembley's desire for spectacle means that pyrotechnics come as part of the package before and after every showpiece game - but it was the fireworks provided in between by Chelsea and Manchester United that revealed the Community Shield's sub-plot.
Chelsea's victory on penalties does not count as a defining moment in shaping the forthcoming Premier League season. It was, however, an early psychological blow that both of these heavweights were, on this feisty and entertaining evidence, desperate to land.
Carlo Ancelotti's new charges have already been uncovered by Sir Alex Ferguson as the biggest threat to his hopes of a fourth successive title, a claim that also allowed him to apply his first verbal pressure point to Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.
And with Chelsea intent on making an early statement on behalf of their Italian coach and prove Ferguson's point, Wembley played host to a confrontation devoid of the charity traditionally associated with the occasion.
The prime example came with 20 minutes left and the score at 1-1. Patrice Evra was felled by a blunt, not to mention highly illegal, intervention by Chelsea substitute Michael Ballack.
As Evra lay on the turf referee Chris Foy, who had stopped the game in similar circumstances earlier, allowed play to progress to the point where Frank Lampard put Chelsea in front.
Cue fury from Manchester United - and a burning sense of injustice that was etched into every fibre of Wayne Rooney when he equalised with virtually the last kick of normal time.
Chelsea went on to claim victory with an emphatic penalty performance, but this was clearly a game that meant something to both sides and both managers. This had an extra layer of importance, and occasional ill-feeling, over and above the usual curtain-raising fare.
And this is why both Ancelotti and Ferguson can take something away from Wembley as they make their final tweaks before the serious Premier League business begins.
Ancelotti gave Chelsea the opportunity to familiarise themselves with his diamond formation against elite opposition - and run through the final checks that all his team's most important parts are in good working order.
Ancelotti's sense of satisfaction will be burnished further by confirmation that Lampard's priceless ability to arrive in goalscoring positions remains as perfectly-tuned as ever, while John Terry's continued presence is clearly a source of joy and inspiration to Chelsea's fans.
The added bonus was the fitness and influence of Ricardo Carvalho, who equalised Nani's early goal for United as well as emphasising exactly why Jose Mourinho is so keen to lure him to Inter Milan with an assured display.
Terry and Carvalho, for all the turbulence that surrounded their summer, remain Chelsea's best central defensive combination, while Ashley Cole simply picked up where he left off last season.
Didier Drogba, new contract safely signed, also demonstrated why Chelsea are happy to forgive his foibles and eccentricities with another show of nuisance value that harried United keeper Ben Foster into distraction under the close inspection of England coach Fabio Capello.
In other words, if Chelsea keep their major players fit and respond to the urgings of Ancelotti as they did to Guus Hiddink during his short and stellar reign rather than Luiz Felipe Scolari, then Ferguson's sense of how to detect a title threat may be proved correct.
Ferguson accepted that Chelsea's win "won't do them any harm" - how much good it will do them remains to be seen.
United will take solace from a vibrant first 45 minutes and a resilient response to going behind, plus the fact that Ferguson's line-up wore a more experimental appearance than Chelsea's.
The main disappointment, apart from defeat itself, was the dislocated shoulder suffered by Nani after the Portugal winger, so often overshadowed by his more illustrious countryman Cristiano Ronaldo, had played with rich promise and real purpose.
Nani scored and tormented Branislav Ivanovic to the point where his interval removal was inevitable, so it was galling for Ferguson to see him depart with his shoulder cradled in a makeshift sling.
Dimitar Berbatov showed glimpses of quality, but Rooney's goal provided the most telling signpost towards the direction United are heading this season in the post-Ronaldo era.
With Ronaldo gone, Rooney's importance cannot be over-estimated and his composed finish, cutting through the heart of Chelsea's central defence on to Ryan Giggs' astute pass, has to be a taste of things to come.
He has the stature and confidence to take on the task of filling the gaps left by Ronaldo, and the centre of United's attack provides the territory where he can do it.
Michael Owen, a signing with all the makings of a masterstroke in my opinion, made a brief appearance, getting booked for deliberate handball and moving around the margins of the latter stages of the game.
Owen will improve with starts, which Ferguson clearly intends to give him, and will provide serious competition for Berbatov as Rooney's aide up front.
It was an uncomfortable afternoon for keeper Foster, hoping to press his claims with United and England this season, but Ferguson hinted that he is currently under-cooked when it comes to game time.
Foster has, however, shown his rich promise in the past, and Ferguson's public show of confidence suggests he is the man to replace the injured Edwin van der Sar.
Ferguson, result and the controversial Lampard goal apart, was in sanguine mood, dismissing suggestions he needs Valencia pair David Silva and David Villa to replace Ronaldo - "not at 50 million I don't".
He even aimed a jab at Ballack after he was on the receiving end of a rattling challenge that wrongly earned an already aggrieved Evra a yellow card, dead-panning: "Ballack didn't complain...and that's unusual."
A major talking point in the aftermath of the game was Lampard's goal and the decision to allow the game to continue while Evra lay injured.
"Grey area" was the phrase correctly used by Ferguson, who understood the problems of applying this rule for both referees and players.
The fear expressed by Manchester United's manager was that while there are cases when players are genuinely injured, you will also have the gamesmanship of those who will hit the deck in a bid to halt an opposition attack.
Fair point this - so it would appear the only workable outcome is to trust the referee to make the call, albeit accompanied by the element of human error that makes this imperfect. There is no foolproof answer to the conundrum.
It all provided a lively and contentious end to a lively and contentious Community Shield, whetting the appetite perfectly for the start of the new Premier League season.
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