With the English season kicking off on Sunday in the Community Shield, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is still getting acquainted with his squad and Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson is trying to decide who to field in the absence of key players.
Ferguson said he was approaching this year's match between the Premier League champions and FA Cup winners at Wembley differently than in the past because both clubs have already been on preseason tours.
"We used to treat the match as a barometer for the players' fitness when certain players needed that extra game," Ferguson said on Friday. "We are not looking at it that way now because the players' fitness is pretty good and they have had the appropriate minutes on the clock."
But for Ferguson and the three-time defending champions, there is always something at stake when playing the Blues. "Whenever we play against Chelsea, pride comes into it," the Scot said.
United lost both Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in the offseason, and will also be without center back Nemanja Vidic because of a calf injury that will rule him out of the league opener against Birmingham next week. Wes Brown will miss the Wembley match with a thigh problem but is expected to return by the following Sunday's match.
The Community Shield presents another opportunity for Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak to succeed Edwin van der Sar in the United goal. Van der Sar, a 38-year-old Dutchman, has been ruled out for up to 10 weeks with broken fingers and is in the last year of his contract. "Both Ben and Tomasz have outstanding qualities," Ferguson said. "It's a dilemma. It's not an easy decision." Striker Michael Owen, a surprise arrival from Newcastle, will also be eager to prove his fitness and form.
"There's no doubt that Michael still loves the game and is hungry to play," Ferguson said.
A third straight Community Shield triumph for United on Sunday would provide a confidence-booster before the bid for an unprecedented fourth straight English title begins. Ferguson also wants to forget May's Champions League final loss to Barcelona. "Adversity is always an important factor in developing and improving," Ferguson said.