COMMENT:

Manchester City turned up at Wembley for the Community Shield wearing the nicest kit you will see this season.

It was a lovely, simple, sky blue throwback number bereft of sponsor's logo to mark the club's 125th anniversary. This was a nostalgic reminder of the days of Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee, of Malcolm Allison's fedora.

It was a reminder, too, of the days when the football season started as the cricket was winding down, when it used to begin just as name tags were being sewn on to jumpers ahead of the return to school, when the Charity Shield shared a weekend with the Gillette Cup semifinals. Not any more.

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With the Community Shield taking place as an Ashes series has barely got under way, this was further evidence of football's relentless march to colonise the entire sporting calendar. At this rate of advance, it will not be long before the season curtain-raiser is taking place the day before the Champions League final.

Indeed, the return seemed to have caught some fans by surprise. At first glance, there seemed many more Liverpool supporters at Wembley. But then it became clear the swathes of red above the City end were in fact due to the empty seats in the upper tier. Maybe the fans were keeping their financial powder dry, waiting for more significant away days to come. Or maybe they preferred to stay at home to watch England versus Steve Smith from Edgbaston.

Certainly, as they paced the touchline in a state of perpetual agitation, the managers looked as if they were still on their break. Pep Guardiola was dressed as if heading to the beach, in T-shirt, chinos and dazzling white box-fresh trainers. While Jurgen Klopp, in jogging bottoms, T-shirt and peaked cap, looked as if he were about to spend a day off clearing out his garage.

Mind, if football is going to return long before the buckets and spades have been put away, this is the sort of game you want.

The intricate passing, smart athleticism, defensive scrambles, managerial meltdowns, a goal-line bicycle kick clearance, the relentless, never-say-die spirit: it was a treat watching these two sides. Right down to the last kick of the shootout, so close was the competition, it remained impossible to thread a cigarette paper between them.

Manchester City's players pose with the trophy after the English Community Shield soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley. Photo / AP
Manchester City's players pose with the trophy after the English Community Shield soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley. Photo / AP

Because from the moment the whistle restarted the season, they picked up where they left off. This was superb entertainment, driven by a determined anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better competitiveness. Mo Salah's dribbles, Andy Robertson's surges, the ritual booing of Raheem Sterling: it was as if the break had never happened.

Not least in the form of Sterling himself. Last season's Footballer of the Year looks ready to progress to even greater heights in 2019-20. Driven by a manager who appeared to be constantly angst-ridden that perfection had yet to be reached, he was simply magnificent here. Full of deception, trickery and intelligence: even in a feast of footballing endeavour, he stood out.

And while Sterling was back on song, for the fans, too, it was business as usual. Those central tenets of the supporting life — the conviction that every refereeing decision is part of a high-level conspiracy to do your club down and that anyone in opposition colours who goes down injured is feigning — were in full working order. For the true believer, summer is no softener.

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As for City's shirts: well, even as the players strode up to the royal box on the familiar path to picking up yet more silverware, they looked great.

Sadly their appearance at Wembley was a one-off; these were ceremonial numbers only. Still, they would certainly look good on any City fan wishing to wear one to the remainder of the Ashes series. After all, even as the football gets under way, there are still four tests to go.