MATCH REVIEW: Real Madrid vs Manchester Utd 2-1 (20170808 - Uefa Super Cup)
Another day, another loss for Manchester Utd. It has become the expectation for Man Utd fans to see their team lose in the post Ferguson era. Those halcyon days of swashbuckling football are long gone and a distant memory.
Although many expected them to lose, Man Utd still acquitted themselves well and for the most part never looked out of their depth. After all, they were playing against the current champions of Europe, a level of competition they have not experienced for a long time.
Real Madrid started the match with their talisman Ronaldo on the bench, and he would only make his appearance much later in the game. But in all honesty, he was not even required as Isco had his position covered quite well. They started with a full-strength team featuring all the usual suspects. They played in their default 4-3-3 formation, adhering to their strengths. If it ain’t broke why fix it?
Madrid played their usual attacking game with lots of short passes. They played in triangles, not allowing Utd to get near the ball. Isco proved to be a particular nuisance for Utd, constantly drawing fouls from players and getting into good scoring positions. He was tormentor in chief. Bale had a few chances, but fluffed his lines when it mattered. Otherwise, it was business as usual.
Utd were more progressive in their choice of formation. They started in a 3-4-3 formation identical to the one Chelsea used so effectively last season in the Premier League. All the new transfers started the match and injected some much-needed energy into the game. This despite the temperatures remaining above thirty degrees late in the evening.
Utd spent most of the first half defending and sitting back, letting Madrid have the ball. The two wide midfield players spent most of their time operating as wing backs, occasionally making runs down the wide channels only to put the cross into the crowd. Matic proved his worth in the centre of the midfield, constantly breaking up Madrid’s attacks and winning the ball, only for another team member to lose it seconds later. Lindelöf had a decent game, but still has some way to go before he becomes the automatic first choice. Lukaku didn’t get much service from the midfield, but did a good job of pressing the defenders when required.
Later, Utd would switch to four at the back which proved far more effective. The substituting of Lingard for Rashford also made a significant difference, as Lingard gave the appearance of a boy playing amongst men. Rashford was for more effective and looked right at home amongst the world’s best. His talent is undeniable, and they should increases his wages to avoid another ‘Pogba situation’.
Clearly, Manchester United are still a work in progress. Even after hundreds of millions of Euros spent.
The first goal scored by Casemiro was questionably offside, with the call being extremely tight. Utd fans would say that it was offside, Madrid fans would be convinced otherwise. The goal was deserved though, as it came after a sustained period of pressure in which a goal seemed inevitable.
The second goal resulted from poor defending in Utd’s backline. They still need time to develop an understanding to work as a unit. Isco simply passed the ball through the defence to Bale who returned the favour by passing it back to him; he then put it into the back of the net with ease.
Utd’s goal seemed to be more of a consolation prize than an attempted comeback. A rebound off the keeper fell into the path of Lukaku who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. Considering his lack of opportunities in the game, when he did get a chance he made it count. That is the sign of a good striker and Utd will be hoping for plenty more throughout the Premier league season.
A deeper concern for Utd fans will be the type of football that was played. They have never been a team that sits back and absorbs pressure, waiting for the counter attack. It is the complete opposite to what they are known for. If this persists throughout the season, it won’t be long before Mourinho gets shown the door. If he wants to keep his job by playing this type of football, he will have to bring home a major trophy with consistent results in the league.
If not, Ed Woodward will start making enquiries after Christmas.
This will be a defining season for both Manchester United and Mourinho. If Utd don’t find success on the field, they will be considered a spent force and fill the void left by Liverpool who now occupy Tottenham’s old place. They have spent money and tried different coaches to no avail. Perhaps the Ferguson era was just an anomaly, unlikely to ever be repeated.
As for Zidane, he has not proved himself just yet as he only had one good season so far. What he does when Madrid hits the inevitable slump will be the true indicator of his coaching credentials. If he starts head butting opposition coaches then you know Madrid is in trouble.
Ultimately, this football season is going to be an interesting one for many clubs, coaches and players. It has that feeling of being a transition between era’s, where many reputations will be defined and legacies determined.