By its very definition, a new season implies an element of novelty. Not in this instance. As Chelsea and Manchester United, the two dominant teams of the past six years, staged the official welcome to the forthcoming campaign, in many respects it was as though they never went away. There are plenty at either club who have reason to wish the World Cup had not happened; for 90 minutes at Wembley, it was as though it hadn't.
At times, this was seamless. For all the inevitable talk about signings, Carlo Ancelotti and Sir Alex Ferguson each named a starting XI comprised of men who were already at the club. Continuity was the theme supplied by a plethora of players. Paul Scholes, for instance, both offered a timeless exhibition of passing and maintained his form from last season. It was Scholes, typically, who was guilty of the first reckless lunge, a scythe that somehow didn't result in a caution. It was Scholes, more laudably, who spread play with inch-perfect precision; his glorious ball from the edge of the centre circle resulted in the opening goal.
It was met by Wayne Rooney, supplying Antonio Valencia with a delightful cross. The Rooney of Rustenburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein, in an instant, was consigned to the past; this was Old Trafford's force of nature restored to his natural setting. For a player with a mere 45 minutes of pre-season action behind him, he seemed strangely sharp but, chasing back in a bid to regain possession, an appetite for the fray appeared to have returned.
United's most inventive midfielder and most potent striker had pressed the fast-forward button to bypass the summer months. That Florent Malouda drilled a shot narrowly wide and that the substitute Didier Drogba's pass almost sent his close friend in on goal indicated their Chelsea counterparts could be similarly catalytic figures. Other less encouraging trends from last season were extended. Sir Alex Ferguson's tendency to be economical with the truth was evident again when Michael Carrick, ruled out for a fortnight by his manager two days ago, started and appeared untroubled in his 79 minutes on the pitch (even a bemused Fabio Capello was seen to say "I thought you were injured").
Meanwhile Michael Owen, another granted a place in the first half, was so anonymous that a missing person report may be filed. There were few signs of an understanding with Rooney. For Chelsea, there were further hints of fallibility from their captain. John Terry took the dangerous decision to play offside which almost allowed Javier Hernandez to steer a pass through the Chelsea defence to Dimitar Berbatov. Not for the first time, Terry's judgment appeared faulty.
With Ashley Cole, rather more unusually, out of sorts, a defence that seemed the weaker half of the team was breached three times. But, eventually, there was the hint of originality. While two arrivals made comparatively quiet competitive debuts, in Yossi Benayoun and Chris Smalling, two strikers brought an injection of energy. One is a newcomer, the other a comparatively recent addition. Hernandez's bow was marked by an utterly improbable goal, the Mexican losing his footing as he shot to somehow head the ball in. Promise was nevertheless confirmed along with a sense that "Chicharito" is a player with a fondness for the big stage.
Chelsea's second-half revival, meanwhile, came courtesy of a galvanising cameo from Daniel Sturridge. Limited to two league starts in his first season at Stamford Bridge, the 20-year-old nevertheless provided the definition of an impact substitute. So, of course, did Hernandez and the great enigma. Berbatov's lovely lob ended the Chelsea fightback. For a player long criticised for failing to deliver in the major matches, it was a rare strike against elite opposition.
Yet whether this is a case of 'new season, new Berba' or another indication of his ability to decorate unimportant fixtures depends upon interpretations of the Community Shield's standing. It does, though, have a new home. In Manchester. @Email:email@example.com