Manchester United face Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup Final at Philip II Arena in Macedonia’s capital Skopje. The Europa League winners will attempt to become the first English team to lift the showcase trophy since Liverpool won it in 2005.
United come into the match on the back of a successful pre-season, with only the 1-0 loss at the hands of Barcelona a blot on their other six victories. While Real Madrid have had a surprisingly woeful pre-season, having not tasted victory and lost three matches out of four. They’ll be out to avenge last month’s defeat at the hands of the Red Devils when they were beaten on penalties in the ICC Champions Cup.
Manchester United will be without a number of defensive players, with Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young still out with long term injuries, while Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are both unavailable due to suspension. Timothy Fosu-Mensah hasn’t travelled with the squad as he’s on the verge of completing his imminent loan move to Crystal Palace, while Cameron Brothwick-Jackson has already joined Leeds United for the upcoming season. This could mean that Mourinho could be forced to field a 4-3-3 formation, instead of the 3-5-2 that he has often fielded in pre-season. The back line could feature Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof and Blind, while other summer signings Lukaku and Matic could also make their competitive debuts, even though Mourinho suggested that Matic isn’t ready for full 90 minutes. Further up front, Mourinho could reward Mkhitaryan and Martial with a start for their brilliant performances in the pre-season, with Mata, Rashford and Lingard poised to contribute as substitutes.
On the other hand, Zidane’s side will see the highly anticipated return of Cristiano Ronaldo. The star Portuguese, who had been given an extended break due to his involvement with his national side in the Confederations Cup earlier this summer, is expected to play a significant role in the match. Also making a return could be Bale, who could be in line to feature having spent the last few days nursing a thigh injury. As per Mourinho, Bale’s involvement in the match could determine his future, and if he doesn’t start or make a significant contribution, that could mean that he’s on his way out, and could force Jose to swoop for him. While it’s unclear if it’s genuine interest or another round of mind games by the Special One, there has been growing uncertainty surrounding the Welshman’s future, who is rumoured to be the scapegoat as Florentino Perez tries to sign Kylian Mbappe. Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Modric are expected to be the mainstays in midfield, while Isco and Bale could partner Benzema up front.
This is a special match for both teams, as Madrid look to bring home more silverware and winning the second Super Cup in a row, while Mourinho would be looking to have an upper hand on his former employers with a statement performance. His second season at a club is usually his best, and Zidane must be aware of that. His side would try to avoid physical battles with the English team’s giants, and quick combination play would be important for that. The gap between the Champions League winners and the Europa League winners is huge, but being an optimistic supporter, I believe that a win here would be the beginning of better things to come at Old Trafford this season.