It’s almost time for Europe’s league action to resume and the UEFA Super Cup match is the last formality left. While not exactly a friendly nor a super competitive match, the Super Cup should give the two teams involved an opportunity to get out of pre-season mode and sharpen up their game. An extra element to this game is that Real Madrid and Manchester United, two of Europe’s super clubs with distinguished histories and pedigree, are contesting it.
While Real have been enjoying success in Europe and domestically, United still have the appearance of a club under renovation, and this match might give us an idea of how close Jose Mourinho may be to completing his Manchester project. Let’s have a look at the squads and see the teams stack up.
Interestingly, this is one area of the lineup where United may have an advantage, despite not having the biggest names. One of Mourinho’s calling cards is his knack for setting up resilient defences that tend not to get beaten extremely often. Valencia at right and Bailly at center back are probably the best players to single out, but Bailly is suspended for the match meaning newcomer Lindelof is likely to be brought in instead.
Real, on the other hand, have a smoothly efficient back four that has remained quite consistent of late. Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo are the mainstays, with one of their other defensive options filling the other position – usually Carvajal. Outside of an uncharacteristic mistake both defences are likely to perform quite well and will be looking to achieve a clean sheet.
The midfield battle is likely to provide a bit of a baptism of fire for the Manchester club. Real’s partnership of Kroos and Modric are one of the most impressive to have developed across Europe in recent seasons. They have the perfect combination of work ethic, passing range, and ability to bring the ball forward. United will be able to gauge how capable their midfield is by letting them go head-to-head with the best on the continent. The addition of Nemanja Matic is an important one, as it theoretically frees up Paul Pogba to maraud through midfield with less defensive responsibility, but we’ll have to see if that clever idea manifests on the pitch.
The comparison of attacks will probably be the most skewed aspect of this match. United have a set of young forwards that are still getting to know one another and lack experience at the highest level, particularly Romelu Lukaku who will need to take the leap from being a big fish in a small pond to shouldering the pressure of being at a club of United’s scale. Real, in contrast, have a settled and familiar attack consisting most likely of serial record smasher Ronaldo, Benzema, and some combination of Gareth Bale, Isco, and Lucas Vazquez. All the pressure will be on United’s young forwards while it’ll just be another day at the office for Los Blancos.
Lukaku v Varane/Ramos: Lukaku has sometimes been accused of disappearing in big matches and not rising to the occasion again truly great players. Ramos and Varane are two of the best center backs around, so if Lukaku is going to prove that perception wrong, this is the best time to do it.
Matic v Modric: Nemanja Matic has been brought in to play in the central defensive midfield role, effectively providing a screen for the back four and to mop up any dangerous opposition attacks. Modric creating good attacking plays from midfield will be his responsibility to address, but the criticisms of Matic’s mobility may come back if he fails to stamp his authority on the midfield.
Ronaldo v Bailly/Lindelof: In the last two seasons, United have acquired some promising new defenders who have yet to play in too many high profile games. They’ll be coming up against some of the best and will have to adjust their games to cope with Real’s quality, particularly with Ronaldo’s efficiency in front of goal.
While it’s technically just an exhibition match, both sides are competitive and both managers will want to get their teams off to a winning start before the various leagues kick off. Zidane’s Real will feel confident going into the game as current La Liga and Champions League holders, while Mourinho will be under scrutiny from fans who expect United to be competing for titles this season. While it’s likely to be a calm affair for Real, there could be an edge to this match for United as the jury is still out on how ready they are for the grueling season.
Predicted Score: 2-0
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