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Arrival in Manchester  :Previous Chapter«Home Page»Next Chapter: A New Season

A Summer Day in Wembley

The Football Association (FA) Community Shield... The annual match contested between the champions of the previous Premier League season and the holders of the FA Cup is regarded as the dawn of the new English football season as it is played one week before the Premier League season starts. In the case the Premier League champions also won the FA Cup, the Premier League's runners-up would provide the opposition. Generally ranked below the FA Cup and the League Cup in terms of importance, the fixture is recognized as a football Super Cup. Although some pundits derided the match with the label of "glorified friendly", others like former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson describe the match as a barometer for the team's fitness.

Manchester United vs. Arsenal... Two clubs with great history and traditions; one of the fiercest rivalries ever seen in English football. Although both clubs squared off against one another in the same league for most of the time since 1919, people believe the rivalry was born on October 20, 1990 as an ill-tempered clash saw both teams being docked points. After Arsène Wenger arrived in 1996 as Arsenal's manager, United and Arsenal became perennial rivals between 1996-97 and 2004-05. During that time, both managers called names against one another. Rivals, like former captains Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira, clashed several times on the pitch and once in the players' tunnel. Intimidation, viciousness, bickering, and fighting... in other words, open war was the norm between both teams until the rivalry cooled down from the 2005-06 season and onwards.

Even if the vast majority of the old protagonists in those epic encounters were no longer active parts of their respective clubs, the rivalry still existed although in a milder form... until this season. A new chapter of this historical rivalry was about to be written on the pitch of the national stadium known as Wembley.


Sunday August 6

Manchester United vs. Arsenal (FA Community Shield)

Wembley Stadium, London, UK

As the team bus arrived at Wembley Stadium after a drive from the hotel where the United players were lodged, several hundreds of Manchester United supporters stood outside of the stadium to greet their heroes.

"Oh man, look at the sight. It never gets old." Kakeru said as he had a quick look to the massive Wembley arch, which holds the roof of the main structure that stands on the ground.

"What is your first memory of Wembley as a player after all those years?" Yusuke asked.

"I played in the 2016 FA Cup semi-final and in the final. I didn't score a goal in any of the matches, but those were memorable matches. Have you ever been here before?"

"No. What about you, Nana?" Yusuke asked.

"It was during the 2012 Summer Olympics. I played in Nadeshiko Japan's victorious semi-final against France, but I got injured before the end of the match. I was forced to see the United States beating us from the stands in the gold medal match 3 days later." Nana replied, but it was clear in her tone of voice that her first Wembley experience was something she would rather forget.

"Oh, I see. Sorry about that." Yusuke apologized.

"What is done is done. This is a new day and a new year, so let's make sure things go for the best this time." Kakeru said.

"You're right, Kakeru. Let's do this." Nana finished.

After the bus went inside of the stadium’s garage, the players moved towards their assigned lounge. Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke were told by José that they would have their turn in the second half. Most players on the squad of each team knew they would see action at some point because the Community Shield match was officially designated as a "friendly match" despite the presence of silverware being up for grabs.


2:29 PM BST

West Didsbury, Greater Manchester, UK

Noriko was preparing to watch the Community Shield match on TV when she heard someone ringing the doorbell outside of the apartment as she expected. Without further due, Noriko went to open the door.

"Hello, Noriko." a beautiful blonde woman with green eyes appeared at the door. She was the same age as Noriko, and she is a fellow medical student at the University of Manchester. Her name is Sarah Davies.

"Hello, Sarah. How are you doing?"

"I'm doing well. I sure wasn't going to miss the game since you are here."

"Well, the only time I would buy a ticket at Wembley would be if United can get in the FA Cup final. Come in!" Noriko said as she invited Sarah inside the apartment. "Want me to get you anything?"

"I'll go with just a tea for now. Thanks, Noriko."

"It feels like a long time ago since Arsenal and United have played for something shiny at the end of a match. I'm really excited for some reason." Noriko said as she prepared the tea for both Sarah and herself.

"That brings back memories from the days when I was a kid. My father was rabidly anti-Arsenal. I don't think I have ever seen Dad hate a team that much since."

"Me neither. Speaking about you, what does the workplace for your upcoming clinical apprenticeship look like?" Noriko asked.

"The Royal Manchester Children's is a very great place to work in. The facilities are at the state of the art, the staff is very friendly, and they have great resources on all fronts. I think I will have a good time there. What about you, Noriko?"

"The staff at Trafford General is friendly too, and they sure know how to give good services, especially in the orthopedics department where I'll work. I also feel this is the right place for me."

"That's nice to hear, Noriko. It's almost hard to believe we have made our way this far already; time flew by so quickly.”

"I know. Still, I'm glad to take on this new challenge that will eventually take me closer to my dream." Noriko said.

"We will make a big party on the day you get the job at United."

"I will really look forward to it." Noriko finished.


2:55 PM BST

Wembley Stadium, London, UK

As both starting lineups walked out of the central tunnel towards the center of the Wembley pitch, they were greeted by pyrotechnics and the 90,000 spectators' thunderous cheers. On the pitch, a triangle of red carpets was laid for cameramen to walk on it and film close-ups of the players. Before the handshake, the tradition of the Community Shield match involves the rare singing of the English national anthem before a club match. For the occasion, famous New Zealand singer and classical crossover artist Hayley Westenra sang God Save the Queen along with large numbers of supporters in the stands. After the national anthem, both teams followed with a handshake, and then the players moved into their assigned positions.

Manchester United wore their home colors for this match while Arsenal wore their away kit consisting of a graphic gradient design in light blue and navy.

Your match commentators are Alan Smith and, first, Rob Hawthorne.

Rob Hawthorne: Football is back. This is Manchester United – the Premier League Champions, against Arsenal – holders of the FA Cup. It may not be the rivalry of old between these 2 clubs, but the fixture always stands out as a big one regardless of the occasion. Starting in goal today for United is David de Gea (#1), and he is expected to play the full 90 minutes. At the back, Matteo Darmian (#36), Eric Bailly (#3), Daley Blind (#17), and Luke Shaw (#23) have the task of protecting De Gea against the Gunners' attacks from the start. Ander Herrera (#21), Michael Carrick (16), and Paul Pogba (#6) start in a 3-man midfield. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (#22) and Anthony Martial (#11) will partner Romelu Lukaku (#9) up front.

On all broadcasts, the graphic of Manchester United's lineup made way for Arsenal's. It was a continuation from the 3-4-3 system that was adopted by Arsenal in later stages of the previous season.

Rob Hawthorne: For the North Londoners, David Ospina (#13) said in the newspapers: "This is our chance to show everyone that we are among the contenders for the top of the table". Supporting him in defense, Arsenal have Shkodran Mustafi (#20), Laurent Koscielny (#6), and Per Mertesacker (#4) in a 3-man back line. In midfield, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (#15) and Nacho Monreal (#18) will provide wide attacking options; Aaron Ramsey (#8) and Granit Xhaka (#29) will marshal the middle of the park. Up front, Mesut Özil (#11) and Alexis Sánchez (#7) will partner £40 M signing Patrick Jenpa (#9).

Then the graphic showing the substitutes appeared while the commentator named the most important substitutes available.

Rob Hawthorne: Some firepower on both benches. For Manchester United, Anthonio Valencia (#25), Matthias Köhler (#15), Yusuke Saeki (#13), Nana Mishima (#7), and Kakeru Aizawa (#19) are poised to make a difference off the bench. For Arsenal, Sead Kolašinac (#31), Francis Coquelin (#34), Danny Welbeck (#23), Theo Walcott (#14), and Olivier Giroud (#12) among others should see action later today. However, Ryuichi Araki and Petr Cech are the most noticeable absentees for Arsenal. Araki is still out with a muscle problem, but should be cleared for next week's season opener.

After the coin toss, Arsenal was awarded the right to kick off the first half. On the referee's whistle, the game started under a thunderous roar. Both sides started the match with caution as each side was studying the other. However, the action picked up the pace in the 16th minute with an interception by Manchester United near the center line, thanks to some hard pressing.

Rob Hawthorne: Ramsey... Good anticipation by Pogba.

United's superstar and French midfielder cut a pass from the Arsenal midfielder. Pog then ran forward with the ball while using various feints to fool his opponents on his intentions, including a sombrero flick. The French midfielder found his Belgian friend Romelu to pass the ball in the middle of the park.

Rob Hawthorne: Lukaku finds Martial...

Running with the retreating Arsenal defenders from the left wing, Anthony received the ball before he made a cut towards the inside of the pitch, just outside of the box. Although Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi was in his path, Anthony dribbled, and waited the perfect moment to shoot. Picking the spot, Anthony unleashed a powerful low drive with his right foot. The shot flew around Shkodran to his left, past the Arsenal goalkeeper's fingertips, and into the bottom corner to open the score in favor of the Mancunian side.

Rob Hawthorne: MARTIAL DRIVES IT!!! Just over 15 minutes gone, the Frenchman opens United's account for the season!

Alan Smith: It's a typical Manchester United counterattack. Ramsey misses the pass, and then they move the ball forward so quickly. Then Martial waited for the right moment to use the defender as a shield distracting Ospina, and picks his spot down in that bottom corner. No chance for the Colombian.

For the Arsenal fans sitting in the end of the stadium where the goal was scored, it was total shock. Meanwhile in the United end of the stadium and on the Manchester United bench, it was jubilation.

"Hell yeah!" Kakeru shouted.

"That's how to do it, lads!" Matthias added.

"That was excellent. It's the best way to beat Arsenal's passing game. All we need to do now is to keep the pressure on, capitalize again, and put this game away." Nana said.

"I know, Seven. Let's hope we grab another one before halftime." Kakeru replied before he shouted out loud: "LET'S GO, GUYS!"

For most of the first half, United's defense gave away no openings in open play while Michael, Ander, and Pog initiated the attacks from the middle of the park. Henrikh and Anthony provided some penetration while Romelu had a couple of attempts that went just wide from goal. Meanwhile, Arsenal's defense and goalkeeper recovered well enough from conceding a goal as they narrowed down any openings there could be. The Arsenal midfielders showed strong resilience as they absorbed the pressure and counterattacked as well. Only Patrick Jenpa up front was not quite in the game yet for Arsenal.

In the 34th minute, United took the game into Arsenal's half.

Rob Hawthorne: Mertesacker... intercepted by Carrick. Now, Martial is in... goes past Ramsey...

Following an interception and a pass forward by the English defensive midfielder, Anthony cut inside, and ran past Aaron Ramsey. Then United's French left winger spotted Romelu standing in front of the 6-yard box, and passed the ball towards him. However, the ball bounced off the Belgian striker's right foot and towards Henrikh on his right. The Armenian tried to tap the bouncing ball in, but the ball went just out of his reach.

Rob Hawthorne: Ohhhh... Mkhitaryan just couldn’t connect with the ball.

In the aftermath, the Arsenal players moved back into defensive positions, and cleared the ball away from the danger area. On the bench, no one among the Manchester United substitutes could believe what they wasted of a chance.

"Come on! I can't believe that!" Kakeru exclaimed.

"We can't miss that! We just can't." Nana added as she had her hands on her head in disbelief.

In the 37th minute, the first sparks of animosity started flying between both teams.

An Arsenal player tackled the ball away, but Ander collected the loose ball before passing it immediately towards Anthony, who was running down the left flank. Without any hesitation, the Frenchman made the pass towards Romelu in the middle. However, Romelu got tangled up with Laurent Koscielny before the ball went loose. Not interested to award a penalty despite the loudly vocal claims, the referee allowed the play to carry on. Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ran with the ball forward before he was fouled by Pog.

Rob Hawthorne: Oxlade-Chamberlain is fouled by Pogba.

The referee blew his whistle, but Oxlade-Chamberlain got up, and shoved Pog, who also replied with shoving of his own until their teammates came in to separate both belligerents. In the midst of the melee, Patrick Jenpa went head to head with United's Ivorian defender, Eric Bailly.

"Hé! Tu pues. Qu'est-ce que tu as mangé? (Hey! You stink. What did you eat?)" Patrick taunted.

"Répète donc pour voir! (Say that again!)" an angry Eric retorted as he grabbed Patrick by the collar.

Rob Hawthorne: Jenpa and Bailly have a confrontation now. Temperature is really rising.

Within the next seconds, the crowd of players moved to separate the other belligerents. Eric had to be held by Romelu, Anthony, and Pog to prevent something more reckless from happening. On the bench, Kakeru and Nana watched the whole scene unfolding.

"Did you see what Jenpa did?" Kakeru asked.

"I sure saw it. He's trying to get one of our defenders sent off." Nana replied.

"GET OUT OF THERE, ERIC!!!" José shouted the orders to his defender.

Meanwhile in West Didsbury:

"Piss off, Jenpa!" an angry Noriko voiced her displeasure out loud in front of the television.

"Just his first match in England, and he finds a way to become hated. What an idiot." Sarah said.

"He's on course to become public enemy #1 at Old Trafford if he carries on like that."

Once things calmed down a little around a minute later in Wembley, the referee had a word with each of the belligerents separately either to dish a card or give only a verbal warning.

Alan Smith: Bailly could be in trouble here with the grab.

Rob Hawthorne: The referee is having a word with Bailly and... Bailly is shown a yellow card.

Having seen the referee take no action against Patrick, most United fans and players were displeased with the referee's decision regarding the Arsenal striker from Cameroon. To make things worse, Arsenal seemed to take a psychological advantage as the Manchester United players were losing their focus towards the brink of halftime. In the second minute of injury time in the first half, Arsenal earned a corner kick.

Rob Hawthorne: This has to be the last kick of the half, but it is a big test for United's defense with Jenpa's physical presence in the box.

It was Chilean winger Alexis Sánchez who was in charge of the corner kick. With a strong kick of the ball, the ball swirled towards a "no man's land" area located just in front of the 6-yard box. Patrick made a run inside the box, and used his teammate Laurent as a natural shield against 2 United players.

Rob Hawthorne: Sánchez... Into the face of the goal! It's Jenpa!

With a free header, Patrick scored the equalizer for Arsenal. In the aftermath, the United players were looking at each other for an explanation.

Rob Hawthorne: The £40-million striker, the man involved in the melee 8 minutes earlier scores on his English football debut on the brink of halftime. More importantly, Arsenal are level at 1-1.

Alan Smith: Let's have a look here: Jenpa has Paul Pogba marking him, but Jenpa comes across. He uses Koscielny as a human wall against 2 red shirts to get himself in position. It was a clever play by the striker from Cameroon. With that much space, he'll make you pay.

"Damn! We almost got away with the lead at the break." Kakeru was obviously disappointed.

"That was something we could have avoided with better man-marking. The Boss will certainly bring Matthias on to add some steel at the back." Nana replied.

"OK. I want all subs warming up during the break. Kakeru, Matthias, Nana... you will start the second half. You know the tactics, so get yourselves ready." José gave his instructions to the substitutes.

"YES SIR!" the substitutes replied altogether.

As the play restarted, only a few seconds went by until the referee blew his whistle for halftime. It was the signal for the Manchester United substitutes to start their warm-up exercises with the fitness coach. Both managers gave their instructions for the upcoming second half. On José's end of things, he was happy with most of the first half. However, the Special One was furious with his team's performance in the final 8-9 minutes of the first half. It wasn't long before the players were told what would be expected of them in the second half.


Just before the second half started, both teams proceeded with a few changes. Kakeru, Nana, and Matthias replaced Henrikh, Ander, and Daley respectively while the tactical setup remained the same for Manchester United. Meanwhile, Arsenal replaced Mesut Özil with Theo Walcott.

Looking from somewhere in the stands was Ryuichi Araki. He was paying closer attention to Kakeru and Nana.

'Now let's see how you will react in this half. We won't make this easy for you at all, especially with Jenpa on our side.' Araki thought.

Kakeru and Nana stood in the center of the pitch, and waited for the referee to blow the whistle that would start the second half. When the whistle came, Nana kicked things off with a pass towards the central midfielders. The second half was only 3 minutes old when Arsenal pushed forward with Alexis Sánchez and Nacho Monreal passing to each other down United's right flank.

Rob Hawthorne: Monreal... Sánchez gets away from Darmian...

Alexis skipped past Matteo, and ran deeper before kicking a high cross towards the face of goal, but Matthias headed the ball away. However, Patrick was standing outside of the box, and then ran past Michael with the ball. United's right-back Matteo stood in the way, but miskicked the ball towards the penalty spot.

Rob Hawthorne: And it's AARON RAMSEY!

Arsenal's Welsh midfielder Aaron managed to escape his marking between Matthias and Luke. In a good position, Aaron stop the ball with his chest before he struck the quick volley past David de Gea. Suddenly, the Arsenal half of the stadium jubilated, especially behind the Manchester United goal.

Rob Hawthorne: GOAL! It's the Welshman Aaron Ramsey putting Arsenal in front for the first time in the Community Shield!

Alan Smith: This all started with Alexis Sánchez. Sánchez plays his part by sending the ball in, but look at Ramsey had when he pops up. Look at the amount of time and space he's got in that penalty area. Poor man-marking by Manchester United again, and they got punished for it.

Looking at the jubilant Arsenal players in disgust, Kakeru and Nana were baffled at the sudden turn of events because neither was able to get into the game yet.

"But... How?" Kakeru asked.

"It was another bad play at the back. That sucks." Nana replied.

Meanwhile, Matthias tried to rally his teammates, and get them back into the game. "It's only one goal down, so switch the focus, keep spaces tight, and push forward. MOVE!"

"C'mon, let's go!" Pog shouted as well.

"If we have to beat them in the old-fashioned way, we will do it." Kakeru said to Nana.

"Let’s take it back to them."

Despite having fallen behind, the Manchester United players got back up, and switched their strategy into an even more aggressive one to match Arsenal's new level of intensity. Over the next 10 minutes, United started taking better control of the ball, and got better chances in the 60th minute.

Rob Hawthorne: Köhler looking for options...

Matthias sent a long ball towards Romelu just outside of the 18-yard box. With Per Mertesacker standing in the way, Romelu passed the ball towards Kakeru on the right wing. Without any hesitation, the Japanese forward sent a high ball that flew across over the Arsenal defenders' heads and on Anthony’s chest. The French winger dropped the ball down his chest, and unleashed the volley at point blank.

Rob Hawthorne: Martial gets it down... What a save by Ospina!

David Ospina rushed towards the shot, and stopped it with his face. As the ball flew back towards the center of the pitch, the referee stopped the game as he saw the Arsenal goalkeeper down because of the previous impact. While David Ospina was attended by Arsenal's medical staff, the Manchester United fans were still in shock regarding the opportunity that was wasted.

"That shot stunned him a little, but he will carry on." Noriko said as she watched the action on her television screen.

"That was a great chance. It's a real shame." Sarah added.

"At least, it is the right way to respond. It could have been a lot worse." Noriko replied.

"I hope Kakeru and Nana will get into the game for real soon enough though."

"They will. Never write them off." Noriko finished.

Indeed, it wasn't long until Kakeru and Nana went to work on the attack just 3 minutes later in Wembley. Nana and Anthony passed the ball to each other, trying to find an opening. With some dribbling, Anthony pushed the ball past an Arsenal player, who committed the foul to stop the Frenchman. It was an indirect free kick for Manchester United.

Rob Hawthorne: Manchester United have a free kick in an interesting position despite the long distance to the goal.

Alan Smith: Yeah, we have seen Nana Mishima whip those long balls in the box for teammates trying their luck with headers before.

Kakeru, Matthias, Romelu, and Pog moved into the box while Arsenal sent 5 players to cover the inside of the box. When the referee blew his whistle, Nana hit for the long pass over a few heads. Meanwhile, Kakeru escaped his marker, and then jumped at the receiving end of Nana's long ball with a header.

Rob Hawthorne: Beautiful ball by Mishima... It's Aizawa! He hits the bar!

Kakeru's header shot hit the crossbar, and bounced towards the side of the 6-yard box. Almost in panic, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain cleared the ball towards the sidelines. Kakeru's first touch in a dangerous area almost produced a goal.

"Nice pass, Seven." Kakeru acknowledged his girlfriend and teammate's excellent feed. Nana then replied with a thumbs-up sign.

The 2 Japanese players were not finished by a long distance. Just 2 minutes later, in the 65th minute, Matteo started with a long throw from deep in United’s half to Kakeru. However, Nacho impeded Kakeru enough for the referee to call the foul. While Nacho was looking away at the referee, Kakeru saw Romelu dashing at the same level as the last Arsenal defender, and unleashed a through pass directly into Romelu's path. It was almost a breakaway.

Rob Hawthorne: Free kick... Aizawa takes it quickly for Lukaku... He has Martial with him...

Romelu slipped between Laurent and Shkodran as he ran through towards the Arsenal goal. As he entered inside the box, the Belgian had to make a quick decision as Laurent was slightly grabbing his shirt while Shkodran was standing in the way for any possible pass towards Anthony. Romelu instinctively struck the ball hard across towards David Ospina's right, but the Colombian responded with a quick reflex save in extremis.

Rob Hawthorne: Another great save by Ospina! It's deflected behind for a corner.

On the following corner kick, Patrick easily cleared the ball away on the sidelines. After the play was stopped, José introduced 2 new players: Yusuke and Antonio Valencia were sent to replace Michael and Matteo respectively. Arsenal also proceeded with a few changes as well: English winger Danny Welbeck, French midfielder Francis Coquelin, and Bosnian defender Sead Kolašinac replaced Alexis, Aaron, and Nacho respectively. The North Londoners maintained the same formation although the forwards were also ordered to be defensively aware at all times.

Manchester United continued pushing forward, but Arsenal kept regrouping as a strong defensive block ready to launch swift counterattacks. Arsenal had a few more chances to extend the gap, but the Gunners were held away by United's defensive brigade.


Later in the 83rd minute, Arsenal were on the move deep in United's half.

Rob Hawthorne: Jenpa… Good move, it's Welbeck...

Patrick held the ball in front of Matthias until he spotted Danny Welbeck on his left. The former Manchester United player Welbeck then ran a few yards before he crossed the ball inside the box, but Yusuke partially blocked the pass which then bounced towards Patrick. With a slight contact with the ball, Patrick dashed towards the goal line before he jumped onto the ground to get the referee’s attention after Yusuke apparently stuck his leg in. However, the umpire saw it all: Yusuke's leg was away from Patrick's by more than an inch.

Rob Hawthorne: Jenpa goes down... He's booked for diving.

Alan Smith: There was no contact at all even from up here. I don't understand why Jenpa is unhappy.

Although the referee immediately showed the yellow card against Patrick, Yusuke stepped forward to give him a piece of his mind as the Japanese was disgusted by the dive. In fact, Yusuke always stood firm against any form of diving or simulation since his time at Kamakura High School.

"Kusoyarou (piece of shit)!" Yusuke chirped at Patrick.

"What do you know, you high school loser?" Patrick asked in Japanese. The Cameroonian still speaks the language after his time in a Japanese high school.

"I hate divers wiping the floor." Yusuke added as he and Patrick were less than an inch away from each other in a head-to-head confrontation.

"You better not screw with me. It will be painful."

"I'm here all day if you want!" Yusuke replied.

"OK, Yusuke, just chill out. Jenpa, get lost." Kakeru said as he and Matthias quickly got in the middle to hold Yusuke back while 2 Arsenal players did the same with Patrick.

Immediately, the rest of the players came up to separate the belligerents while a few Arsenal players complained in vain about the referee's decision of not giving a penalty. Kakeru and Nana pulled their friend Yusuke away, but they knew the temperature was about to rise as the frustration of not scoring the vital 2nd goal was growing bigger among the Manchester United players.


In the 88th minute:

As Patrick partially intercepted a pass, he ran after the ball to push the counterattack. But from the moment the Cameroonian was close to retrieving the ball, Yusuke tackled the ball away with the right foot, and Patrick fell onto the ground in the follow-through of Yusuke's strong challenge. Despite Patrick's complaints, the referee deemed the tackle as legal, and the game continued with Nana back in control of the ball.

Rob Hawthorne: Mishima... Trying to keep the pressure on Arsenal...

Nana pushed forward to continue the attack, and suddenly found herself facing Granit Xhaka.

"Come here, Little Witch!"

After making of couple of feints to see the range of the Swiss' body position, Nana executed her "Alley" dribbling technique as Granit made the first move towards her. With that technique, Nana tapped the ball with her right foot so the ball would go to the player's left while Nana runs past the player on the right. It almost had a similar effect as Kakeru's Phi Trick.

Rob Hawthorne: She goes past Xhaka...

The ball rolling a little further, Nana ran in full stride to catch up with it. Meanwhile, Francis went towards Nana in full speed with the intention of tackling her. Nana slightly touched the ball to push it past Francis' reach. However, Francis still jumped in with a two-footed flying tackle off the ground by 2 inches, and then caught Nana's left boot, sending the Japanese woman hard on the deck.

The reaction from Manchester United fans and players alike was immediate as a major shout was heard throughout the stadium and in any place where United fans watched the match. Almost immediately, the referee blew his whistle. Meanwhile, Nana managed to get away from the contact without any damage.

"Hey, do something, referee! That's a two-footed flying tackle!" Noriko shouted as she just witnessed the action on television.

"He has to go. Send him off!" Sarah added.

Rob Hawthorne: Oh, it was a rash challenge there. What is the referee gonna do about Coquelin here?

"I came as fast as I could to get the ball. I didn't do it on purpose." Francis tried to claim his innocence, but it wasn't very long before a mob of angry Manchester United players met him, and started shoving him.

"Hey, sod off!" Patrick pushed a couple of players back. However, Pog went after the Cameroonian.

"Ne nous dis pas quoi faire, fumier (Don’t tell us what to, bastard)!" Pog said.

Before things went too far with the United players getting annoyed by Patrick's presence, the referee ordered everyone to disperse. A very short moment later, the referee issued a straight red card to Francis.

Rob Hawthorne: It's a red card. Arsenal's first red card of the season comes at Wembley, and it's Francis Coquelin who is dismissed.

Alan Smith: There was no other option for the referee, really. Coquelin knows he's nowhere near the ball, yet he commits himself with both feet in the air, and caught Mishima's left foot. The damage could have been a lot worse.

Despite being sent off, Francis continued to argue with the referee before he was bailed out by Arsenal players and personnel. Meanwhile, Kakeru and Yusuke were attending to Nana for good measure after the rough tackle she took.

"You sure you can carry on?" Kakeru asked Nana.

"I'm fine. That scumbag will pay for that." Nana replied before she whispered something into Kakeru's ear. When she was finished, she turned towards Yusuke. "Ready, Yusuke?"

"I'll take that long free kick." Yusuke said.

"OK, do it." Nana replied before she made a sign to her other teammates to warn them about the strategy. The Manchester United players then moved into their positions as they were trained to during the week. Most of the United players moved higher to receive a possible pass by the edge of the box, but Arsenal pulled back most of their players in front of their own box in response.

Rob Hawthorne: Arsenal are now down to 10 men. Manchester United have a free kick from long range as we are entering into stoppage time.

When the referee gave the signal for the free kick to go, Yusuke took the kick. However his long ball was a little short as Danny Welbeck cleared the ball away with a header.

Rob Hawthorne: Saeki's free kick didn't get past Welbeck...

Then the ball slightly bounced off Patrick's head, and went a little closer to the center line. As Patrick ran after the ball, Yusuke came in first, and instinctively struck the ball back towards the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Per got to the ball first in front of Matthias, but the clearing attempt was not convincing due to Matthias's physical presence.

Rob Hawthorne: Saeki sends it back... up towards his teammate Köhler... it's turned away as far as for Mishima...

The uncontrolled clearing attempt fell right into Nana's feet 27 yards from goal. Looking for options, Nana suddenly spotted Kakeru completely all alone in an onside position, waving his arms away begging for a pass, and far away from his marker. Without a moment of hesitation, Nana blasted the through pass towards Kakeru.

Rob Hawthorne: GREAT PASS FOR AIZAWA!

After receiving the pass inside the box, Kakeru had David Ospina running towards him. With the striker's instinct, Kakeru tapped the ball off his right foot to David Ospina's left and into the bottom corner of the goal.

Rob Hawthorne: UNBELIEVABLE!!! Kakeru Aizawa scores his first goal of this new campaign, and sends Manchester United back on terms at 2-2. But what a pass by Mishima! Japan's Footballing Sweethearts have struck again.

While all Manchester United fans in the stadium, especially behind the Arsenal goal, were going into wild euphoria, Kakeru picked up the ball in the back of the net. Instead of celebrating, he just wanted to have another go at goal before the final whistle. On the Manchester United bench, José got slightly exuberant in his celebration, which is in line with his personal history against Arsenal since the days when he was the manager at Chelsea.

Meanwhile in West Didsbury:

"BLOODY YES! Give your 'ead a wobble about that now, Coquelin!" Noriko shouted.

"That was the sweetest revenge for that dirty tackle. Did she really make that pass?" Sarah replied.

"You bet she did! She put that right through the eye of the needle!"

"Do you think we have time for another goal?" Sarah asked.

"I think it will go down to penalties regardless of Kakeru's reaction after the goal. There's no point in risking injuries now despite everything we have seen today." Noriko replied.

Although the game restarted in Wembley with some time left in injury time, Noriko was right as neither team really pushed forward knowing a penalty shootout was coming shortly. The rule for a Community Shield match says that a penalty shootout would take place if it's tied after 90 minutes. As a result, Arsenal's final substitution was to take a defender out, which would allow their main striker of the last few seasons, Frenchman Olivier Giroud, to come on.

PEEP PEEP PEEEEEEEEEP!!!

Rob Hawthorne: Nothing separates these 2 teams after 90 minutes. Thanks to Kakeru Aizawa's late equalizer, the outcome will be decided on penalties. The score after 90 minutes: Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal.

Having not celebrated the goal earlier, Kakeru's teammates gave him high fives. It was thanks to him that his team was still having a chance to win. Kakeru congratulated Nana with a good hug as well.

"Thanks for telling me where to find the space just before the free kick. That was the key on that goal." Kakeru said.

"Sure, but you also used your strikers' instincts to perfection when you got there." Nana replied.

"Nervous about the shootout, Seven?"

"I must admit that I'm a little nervous, Kakeru."

Both teams then took a few minutes to rest a little, have a few drinks, work up a few muscles with the physios, and have a talk with the coaches about what habits the opposition's goalkeeper had. After the short intermission, the referee proceeded with a coin toss to determine which team would shoot first. Finally, United won the toss, and chose to shoot first. On the second coin toss, United also won and then chose to have the shootout taking place in front of the Manchester United fans' end, which was away from sunshine at that time of the day. For the first time ever, the Community Shield penalty shootout format would use the new ABBA system. Inspired by tennis tiebreaks and designed to remove the unfair advantage of the team taking the first kick, the ABBA system asks that Team A takes the first kick followed by Team B, and then, in the second pair, Team B takes the first kick followed by Team A. The sequence here is AB, BA, and so on.

Despite the fact that the match wasn't officially regarded as a competitive one, the pressure of taking a penalty kick is always huge as all eyes are on the kicker from the moment he or she has to make the long walk from the center line to the penalty spot. On one side, the supporters of the player's team would cheer while the opposition's supporters would boo or whistle at the player. The hardest thing for any taker is to stay in control of oneself, and to believe in what he or she has been trained for.

At last, the first penalty taker for Manchester United stepped up to the spot.

Rob Hawthorne: Manchester United will shoot first. It's Kakeru Aizawa who steps up to start the shootout.

"Just believe in what you trained to do, and let nothing else go through your head, Kakeru!" Nana gave her words of encouragement. In response to those words, Kakeru started blanking his mind ahead of the kick.

Given the go, Kakeru had his gaze aimed at David Ospina's right when he made the run. However, that tactic fooled the Arsenal goalkeeper as Kakeru shot the ball into the bottom corner at the goalkeeper's left side while the latter was diving on his right. Manchester United took the lead 1-0 in the shootout.

Rob Hawthorne: First blood goes to Manchester United. Aizawa sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Running away with his arm raised to salute the crowd in celebration, Kakeru walked back towards his delighted teammates. Then Arsenal's first taker stepped forward. It wasn't hard to guess who the taker was.

Rob Hawthorne: In response to Kakeru Aizawa's goal, Patrick Jenpa will take the first attempt for Manchester United.

Patrick put the ball on the spot with the valve up, and then stepped back a long way out, just outside the 18-yard box. Once the referee blew his whistle, Patrick dashed towards the ball, and blasted it towards the top corner at the goalkeeper's right. United’s goalkeeper David de Gea jumped in the right direction, but the power behind the shot made it unstoppable. Both teams were on equal terms at 1-1.

Rob Hawthorne: Struck with power! Jenpa makes it 1-1.

Patrick then calmly walked his way back while his teammate Theo stepped up as Arsenal's next penalty taker in the ABBA penalty shootout format. The Englishman had the task of giving his team the lead. Following the referee's whistle, Theo struck the ball towards the goalkeeper’s right, but the shot was too close to the middle. As a result, David de Gea managed to catch the ball on the ground.

Rob Hawthorne: Saved by De Gea! But it was a poor attempt by Theo Walcott you have to say.

While David de Gea celebrated his save with the Manchester United supporters behind the goal, Theo walked back in disappointment. Without any further due, Matthias came up to take the shot. Standing a few yards behind the ball, Matthias shot the ball hard and low with the right foot towards the bottom low corner on David Ospina's right as the latter plunged towards his left. In a matter of a fraction of a second, the Mancunian side took the lead in the shootout.

Rob Hawthorne: It's 2-1! Manchester United have taken the advantage.

Alan Smith: Köhler leads by example. With his experience, he knew what he was doing. Into the side netting, and the goalkeeper was sent the wrong way.

In the 3rd round, Romelu Lukaku scored to make it 3-1 for the Red Devils, but then Olivier Giroud also scored to cut the deficit at 3-2 after 6 penalty takers. In the 4th round of the shootout, Danny Welbeck stepped forward with a chance to tie the score in the shootout for Arsenal once again. Since Arsenal's previous 3 attempts went towards the right side of the Manchester United goalkeeper, Welbeck chose to hit a low shot towards David de Gea's left in the bottom corner. However, United's Spanish goalkeeper also anticipated the manoeuver, and dived towards his left. With just enough contact on the fingertips, David de Gea deflected the ball out of bounds.

Rob Hawthorne: OHHH, WELBECK MISSED IT! David de Gea has stopped the shot! Manchester United only need one goal out of the next 2 shots.

The United fans in the stadium cheered loudly in relief as their team only needed a goal to win the Community Shield with 2 attempts at the most at the time.

Alan Smith: Welbeck's shot was struck hard and low, but the goalkeeper just made a better save. The ball went off his fingertips, but it was enough for it to bounce off the outside of the post.

While everyone was guessing who the next Manchester United kicker would be, the players in red already knew who it would be. When the next player stepped forward, the majority of the worldwide audience, either in the stadium or in front of a screen, was astonished.

"Are they really serious?" Sarah asked.

"You can bet they are, especially when SHE steps forward." Noriko replied before she shouted: "C'mon, Nana!"

Rob Hawthorne: Well, this is a surprise. Coming forward is Nana Mishima with the chance to end the contest here and now, and to write another page of history.

Knowing the importance of the next kick, the Arsenal fans in the opposite end of Wembley Stadium intensified the booing and the whistling in their attempt to take Nana's concentration away. Even David Ospina stepped ahead, and attempted to get into Nana's head with some taunting.

"Hey, Mishima! Dime que no son graves cuando envían a alguien sin cojones para hacer el trabajo de un hombre (Hey, Mishima! Tell me they are not serious when they send someone with no cojones to do a man's job)." David Ospina said.

However, the young Japanese woman never let anything go through her mind nor did she even look at the goalkeeper. She only stood outside of the box until the referee ordered the Arsenal goalkeeper to move back on his goal line.

Once Nana stepped inside the box, the only things she had in mind were to put the ball in the correct position, and then focus on the target. She already made her mind about where to aim at the goal.

'Keep your cool, Seven.' Kakeru thought as if he was trying to convey his advice through telepathy.

Rob Hawthorne: Who will win the battle of nerves? Mishima or Ospina?

PEEP!

Nana made her run, and struck the ball hard. David Ospina guessed the right side as he went diving on his right, but the shot flew with speed into the top corner. In an instant, Nana sent the Manchester United half of Wembley Stadium into pandemonium.

Rob Hawthorne: AND MISHIMA HAS DONE IT! Manchester United have won the Community Shield. Nana Mishima and David de Gea are the heroes at the moment.

Immediately after the 4-2 goal which settled the shootout, Nana celebrated the victory by doing a little Melbourne Shuffle dance. Within seconds, Nana got lifted off the ground with a hug from behind by David de Gea before she got mugged by her other teammates. Kakeru gave Nana a quick congratulatory kiss before he and other teammates joined her in the little dance she initiated.

Meanwhile in West Didsbury, Noriko, and Sarah jumped around in the apartment’s living room from the moment Nana scored. After a short while, they stopped to watch the celebrations.

"I never thought she would be that good with nerves until today, but she really is something." Sarah said as she was referring to Nana.

"I know. She couldn't stand pressure in her early teenage days in the USA according to what she told me, but then she became a lot stronger over the years. She's one of the best I've seen among all female athletes I have ever met when it comes to mental strength." Noriko replied.

"Bless Fergie for signing her up at the same time he did so with Kakeru."

"You've got that right." Noriko finished.

Back in Wembley:

'You truly earned that victory today, Kakeru and Nana. But things will be a lot different when we'll meet in North London, in September. You can count on that.' Araki thought as he watched his friends from the stands for a moment before he walked away.

A few minutes later, the Manchester United players walked up the steps in the middle of Wembley's North Stand as they were summoned to the Royal Box for the trophy presentation. The Mancunian captain Michael Carrick received the Community Shield silver trophy from the FA chairman's hands, and hoisted it together. Then Michael passed the Shield to the next player, and collected their winners' medals. A few players later, Kakeru and Nana received some of the loudest cheers from their supporters as they hoisted the Shield together.

Walking down the stairs, the winning team moved to the designated area where the winners' picture would be taken by several photojournalists. After a few photos, Nana picked up one of the champagne bottles that were kept aside for the on-pitch celebration party, and then sprayed the first lot of champagne at her teammates. It wasn't long before Kakeru went on with some champagne spraying of his own, and then followed by some of his teammates who picked up the other champagne bottles.

For Manchester United, the victory against Arsenal meant a happy journey back to the Northwest of England. The moment of celebration was another one to enjoy fully like they did when they won the Premier League in the previous month of May. However, they knew the real job would start in the following weekend as the new Premier League season, a marathon of 38 matches, was set to begin.

Arrival in Manchester :Previous Chapter«Home Page»Next Chapter: A New Season

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