The highly-anticipated curtain-raiser to the new European football season saw Manchester United and Real Madrid going head-to-head for the UEFA Super Cup. While the match didn’t have any huge consequences for either team in their respective forthcoming competitions, it did allow us to gauge a few things from England and Spain’s powerhouses.
Manchester United miss Zlatan Ibrahimovic
There’s no doubt that Romelu Lukaku is a promising young striker, but it remains to be seen whether he can step up to the level required at a club like United. While his ability on the pitch isn’t in question, he simply doesn’t have the aura or ability to lead like Zlatan does. Last season, United’s success was primarily down to not only the goals the Swede scored, but also the effect he seemed to have on his teammates. It’s well-documented that he’s obsessed with winning, and is a dedicated athlete – both of which seemed to rub off on his teammates. With Ibrahimovic absent, United lack those big personalities all the greatest sides have, and it’s uncertain whether players like Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Romelu Lukaku will develop that same aura that can lift the players around them.
Real Madrid don’t need Ronaldo to win
It’s arguable that Zinedine Zidane has not received as much credit as he deserves for managing to get Real Madrid playing a balanced team game, instead of relying solely on the talismanic Ronaldo as they once did under previous managers. While Ronaldo’s contribution is still the greatest among his team, at least in terms of goals and assists, his absence doesn’t diminish their ability to beat decent opposition. Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and fast-developing youngsters like Asensio and Lucas Vazquez are all more than capable of picking up the slack when Ronaldo isn’t available.
Paul Pogba is still finding his feet
While Pogba is comfortable bullying less impressive teams and has made strides to justify his £89m price tag, he’s still struggling to make an impression against tough opposition in a United shirt. Last season he was criticized for disappearing in a number of United’s big games against tough rivals like Liverpool and Chelsea, and those criticisms reappeared after a disappointing performance against Real, too. While the Frenchman has all the raw talent to become a world-class player, he still lacks some of the maturity necessary to utilise that talent against the best of the best. If United are going to achieve any success this season, they’re going to need Paul Pogba to step up and consistently perform against their closest rivals.
Real have a lot of youth potential
Real Madrid are most famous for their Galactico policy to transfers; effectively, spending enormous amounts of money to acquire the world’s best established talent. Strangely enough though, they’ve actually got a number of younger players, some coming from their academy, that could become regular first team names. Carvajal has already made the jump from Real Madrid B (along with a short stint in Germany) to becoming a fixture in Real’s first team as well as the Spanish national team. Marco Asensio is the other promising youth player, who after two loan spells to La Liga clubs, is busy giving Zidane another fast attacking option up front. Los Blancos have also purchased Theo Hernandez from rivals Atletico recently and is tipped to be a prospect to watch in Real’s left back position.
Marcus Rashford is United’s future
Manchester United have always been proud of their academy, but they’ve run a little dry on truly inspiring academy products in recent years. Marcus Rashford storming onto the scene in Louis van Gaal’s final season changed all that. Considering that he was a teenager when he made his debut (and is still only 19), the speedy forward has managed to develop quickly in a short amount of time. He’s heading into his third year of senior competition and is going from strength to strength by being exposed to high level opposition, as well as learning from and being surrounded by his more experienced teammates. While players like Pogba, Lukaku or Mkhitaryan might grab more headlines, it’s likely that United’s long-term fortunes lie with the homegrown youngster’s development.
What did you think of the game, as well as Real Madrid and United’s chances this season? Let us know by tweeting @MenStuffZA and commenting below.