Will Manchester City fall victim to the Community Shield curse?
Last Sunday at Wembley, Manchester City picked up where they left off in 2017/18, dominating an opponent on their way to another win. Chelsea was the first victim in the season's precursor or glorified friendly, depending on your perspective, known as the Community Shield.
Posing with the silver platter recently has proven a curse. Since 2010, no team has lifted the league trophy after capturing England's Super Cup. Manchester United were the last to finish what they started.
The question is whether Pep Guardiola and City should be concerned. We all know what happens to those who disrespect curses, ghost tales and urban legends in the movies, even when they think there's a rational explanation, as might exist here [not].
United retained the Shield in 2011 only to see the title slip away on goal difference through poor finishing and the inability to hold a lead. Their lax concentration allowed Shield runners-up City to poach the title. Did United’s comeback victory at Wembley invite complacency? With Ferguson around, that seems unlikely. Then again, on the heels of three consecutive titles, it's difficult to prevent players from taking things for granted.
So that’s one winner who failed to go on and claim the title. Not unusual; nor by any means indicative of some sort of curse. Or so people always believe in the beginning. No need to panic yet, City.
In 2012, City took their defending Champions status to Villa Park because Wembley was busy with the Olympic Games. The Citizens defeated FA Cup winners Chelsea much as they did this season, but their title defence stuttered when Robin Van Persie inspired United to give Fergie the perfect send-off.
Van Persie proved to be the spark in the title race. Both Manchester clubs wanted him; he chose United. Roberto Mancini believed the Dutchman was the difference. Had he gone to City, they'd have claimed the title. He's not alone in that view and it's hard to disagree. Still, it would be a stretch to say there was a curse. More like City’s championship reign was Dutched.
After its brief sojourn in the Midlands, the Shield returned to Wembley for 2013. United, under new management, defeated shock FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic. This is where things start to favour a curse. Victory at Wembley prematurely peaked United's season. The campaign was a downhill slide to seventh.
One could argue many factors were behind the slump. Moyes removed Ferguson’s entire backroom staff. David Gill retired. The new man lacked a clear vision. Even so, it's the sort of unexpected failure a curse delivers.
With United out of the picture, Manchester City reclaimed the title. FA Cup champions Arsenal won the 2014 Community Shield, though. The first trophy in nine years for Arsenal, Gunners fans allowed their hopes to rise with visions of further silverware. But it wasn't to be. Curses feed on hope.
Both sides struggled that season while the recently returned Jose Mourinho delivered the title to Stamford Bridge in his second season.
Having retained the FA Cup, Arsenal returned to Wembley and defended the Shield, as well. Again, it was a false dawn. Arsenal frittered away every opportunity to close on surprise package Leicester City. Some will argue Arsene Wenger made his own curse, but the Gunners continually tripped over themselves.
As for Chelsea, their season imploded spectacularly. Mourinho was dismissed in November. Maybe there were two curses at work, Wenger's leaving the Shield to pick up the scraps left over by the Frenhman's arrogance. Maybe the Shield was feeling spry and left no survivors.
The dead men tell no tales approach continued. Mourinho reappeared as United boss to dispatch the champions. Leicester floundered in their title defence. The Foxes sacked Claudio Ranieri with ruthless cruelty in December while United stumbled to a sixth-place finish. To be fair, the Mancunians won the EFL Cup and Europa League.
Chelsea and Antonio Conte queued up for their go at the curse. The Blues lined up against Arsenal, who'd now won the FA Cup times in four years. Wenger won another minor bauble. Little did anyone but the curse know it would be his last. Like United before, Arsenal dropped to sixth. Perhaps thinking Wenger was too easy, the curse again feasted on the winners, as well. Chelsea finished fifth. Conte feuded throughout with the Blues' hierarchy. Because Russians understand revenge better than anyone, even Sicilians, the Italian was allowed to stay on the job long enough to supervise the first day of training before being sacked for Maurizio Sarri.
And here we are. The Community Shield, like a broken mirror, has been the harbinger of disaster for winners the past seven seasons, but if anyone can break a curse, it ought to be Pep Guardiola. We'll find out in May.