By Dan Mellett
40 days and 40 nights is all it has taken for David Moyes to pick up his first piece of silverware in his new role as manager of Manchester United.
His lap of honor at Wembley with the wife and kids in tow must have felt good, a relief if nothing else, but as he cradled that historic shield around an already emptying stadium he must have thought deep down that this didn’t mean anything. Not really. Not to most.
The fact of the matter is that for many of the traveling United fans on Sunday and certainly those that go the length and breadth of the country to see their beloved shirts every other week; a Community Shield game at Wembley in August is nothing more than an irrelevant rite of passage indeed to some it can be an inconvenience. Success has a nasty habit of making these sorts of occasions routine and in the previous 27 years there has certainly been many of them.
As such in recent times the Community Shield has often been shunned by many of the usual “match going” Reds, preferring instead to save their hard earned cash and pass from the Mrs for the next upcoming trip or the next installment on the season ticket payment plan. Newly relegated Wigan was hardly the glamor tie that this traditional fixture probably deserved. In honesty, it was not the curtain raiser the FA wanted but for many in attendance on Sunday it was clear this renewal had an added significance.
Many there had never seen a Manchester United side that had not been lead out by a certain gentleman from Govan. Many of them have only known the success that Sir Alex lavished on the club and that is why despite Moyes’ own musings this game did matter. That is why the compulsion to be there was suddenly so strong for Reds of all ilk’s, no longer the awkward, costly inconvenience but instead a definitive part of Manchester United history. New manager, new era, same support.
Sir Alex Ferguson chose his final moments at Old Trafford to address the faithful from the hallowed center-circle in the stadium he built and told them in no uncertain terms that their job now was “….to get behind the new manager”. Sunday’s trip to Wembley was an opportunity to express this support as much as anything else and the United legions didn’t let the old boss down.
As the name suggests the Community Shield has always been a chance for fans from across the spectrum, season ticket holders or not, to make the trip to the national stadium and with reduced prices bring the family for the day out but even with this in mind the attendance was exceptional.
United’s own ticket sales for this game accounted for over 47,000 of the total attendance and many more United fans purchased tickets through other channels that had been placed on General Sale. Wigan only managed to sell 5,500 tickets through their official channels, which not surprising given their relegation and the fact their season is already underway.
The reason for this unusual surge in attendance from the Reds is simple to explain, it’s that thing that makes football fans tick and keeps them traveling the miles, paying the rising ticket prices and putting up with ever changing kick-off times. It’s the ability to say “I was there” and for 50,000 or so United fans they will now always be able to say they witnessed David Moyes first competitive game, his first silverware. This match meant something and the attendance alone is testament to that.
New manager, same result, same support.
40 days and 40 nights wasn’t long to wait to get the monkey off his back.
It was Jesus that famously had 40 days and 40 night’s preparation before he embarked on his ministry and performed his first ‘miracle’.
It remains to be seen if David Moyes’ Manchester United ministry will be nearly as dramatic, or when his first ‘miracle’ might be performed but then again, even Jesus had an easier act to follow than Sir Alex Ferguson.