Neil Humphreys: Gap between EPL's top two and the rest will widen
Only Liverpool and City look capable of challenging Liverpool and City
Juergen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are like a couple of trust-fund babies on a gap year trying to play down their wealth and privilege.
The Community Shield proved that they are both failing miserably.
Before the Wembley curtain-raiser, Klopp said that Manchester City's transfer spending belonged in fantasyland.
Guardiola disagreed, suggesting that Liverpool enjoy preferential treatment in the court of public opinion.
They are both right and wrong.
City do belong in a football fantasyland, but so do Liverpool. Fantasyland is their full-time residence. They are out of touch with their rivals and potentially out of sight this season.
Klopp and Guardiola entertain with their hissy fits, downplaying their own elitist status like Mark Zuckerberg wearing scruffy jeans for a slideshow.
But, in football terms, they are privileged beyond compare and light years ahead of any meaningful competition. What the Community Shield really showcased was not an embarrassment of riches, but an embarrassment of rivals elsewhere.
A Harry Maguire here and a Tanguy Ndombele there offer titillating distractions, but they are minor personnel tweaks among the also-rans.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Joel Matip, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Fernandinho underlined the gap that can't be closed. None of them started at Wembley.
Pundits often put together combined best XIs of Liverpool and City. But there's a more pertinent case to compile a best of the rest. A combined side of City and Liverpool's bench-warmers would suffice against most EPL opposition.
City defeated the European champions and EPL runners-up without particularly excelling, so much so that a combustible Guardiola earned himself a yellow card for screaming at every poor decision and foul as if his job depended on it.
But the Reds probably deserved to prevail against the most successful side in English football, despite a patchy first-half, a missing Mane and rusty fullbacks.
City and Liverpool almost cancel each other out - the differences between them are increasingly negligible - but are streets ahead of everyone else, which doesn't bode well for the EPL (unless they're playing each other).
Guardiola took umbrage at Klopp's fantasyland jibe, but in the real world, few clubs in Europe could hand over £62 million (S$104m) with minimal fuss for a seamless replacement.
Fernandinho was still away, recovering from international duties. Rodri took his place. Hardly anyone noticed. The passing of the baton was so quick, slick and effortless, it felt like a magician's sleight of hand.
The new boy from Spain, just 23, took up his position at the base of City's midfield and turned off the European champions' engine room. In the first half, Rodri completed 94.7 per cent of his passes and gained possession seven times.
In fact, he was so assured for his new club that Klopp adjusted his formation at half-time, bulking up the midfield.
Liverpool improved, but City face the Reds only twice a season. Rodri will go to work against lesser opposition (which is essentially everyone else).
City's front six dominated possession, initially, but faced perhaps the world's most accomplished centre-back in Virgil van Dijk. Liverpool missed Mane, but a half-fit Mohamed Salah had enough in reserve to peel away from his markers.
The Egyptian would've scored, but Kyle Walker's ridiculous scissor-kick clearance on the goal-line sent the game to penalties. Liverpool should have prevailed in the shoot-out, but City's reserve goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, was magnificent.
The Community Shield was like an intriguing game of pedigree poker, with the occasion effectively saying, I'll see your Joe Gomez and raise you an even better Joel Matip, who'll also score a fine header. And then I'll see your Leroy Sane and raise you a Gabriel Jesus and so on.
As much as the one-upmanship was entertaining, the startling depth of quality also felt like the two squads were rubbing everyone else's noses it, those poor souls tasked with making up the numbers.
Pre-season results mean very little, but pre-season squads can mean everything. The Community Shield had the eerie feel of a Clasico warm-up, a game that may settle most of the silverware.
The only sides that look seriously capable of challenging Liverpool and Manchester City this season are Liverpool and Manchester City.
Klopp's fantasyland promises to be a weekly reality.
TOMORROW: FOCUS ON THE TOP FOUR CONTENDERS
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now