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Premiership rivals resume battle

Published: Saturday 7 August 2004, 15.41CET
Arsenal FC and Manchester United FC will show their title intent when they meet in the FA Community Shield. features

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Published: Saturday 7 August 2004, 15.41CET

Premiership rivals resume battle

Arsenal FC and Manchester United FC will show their title intent when they meet in the FA Community Shield.
Arsenal FC and Manchester United FC get an early chance to assess each other's title credentials when they meet in Sunday's FA Community Shield at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Familiar fixture
The traditional curtain-raiser to the English season pits the champions against the FA Cup holders. It is the fourth time in seven years that these Premiership rivals have contested this event - and a repeat of last year's match, won on penalties by United.

Remarkable season
Twelve months on and champions Arsenal are the team to beat, having lasted a remarkable Premiership campaign unbeaten. United finished 15 points behind in third place, but will be keen to send a message to the Londoners that they will be pushed far harder this time.

Injury blows
However, Sir Alex Ferguson's side must do so without striker Ruud van Nistelrooij, who is out for a month after hernia surgery. In fact, both clubs are missing a goalscoring talisman. Arsenal's Thierry Henry is sidelined with an achilles injury, as is team-mate Sol Campbell.

New faces
Van Nistelrooij's absence means that Alan Smith should make his competitive bow following his summer move from relegated Leeds United AFC. United have also brought in defender Gabriel Heinze and midfield player Liam Miller, and with one eye on their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie against FC Dinamo Bucuresti next week, Ferguson may hand Miller a debut as he seeks to rest key players. Heinze will have to wait for his United bow though as he is with Argentina at the Athens Olympics.

Good housekeeping
While United have spent nearly €21m bolstering their squad, Arsenal have been more thrifty, adding forward Robin van Persie, goalkeeper Manuel Almunia and midfield player Mathieu Flamini for considerably less. Van Persie has excelled in pre-season and is likely to play some part in Cardiff, as the Gunners regroup after releasing 18 players including Sylvain Wiltord, Martin Keown, Nwankwo Kanu and Ray Parlour.

Intense occasion
The fixture occasionally resembles another limp summer friendly but with the clubs' intense rivalry, it promises to be a livelier affair. While both sides will want to avoid a repeat of the ugly fracas that marred their 0-0 Old Trafford draw last season, they will be eager to give early warning of their championship intent - both to each other and to the team most likely to disrupt their Premiership duopoly, Chelsea FC.

Last updated: 07/08/04 15.41CET

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