Manchester United were thoroughly outclassed in the UEFA Super Cup last night as Real Madrid lifted the trophy for the second consecutive season, the first club to do so since AC Milan in 1990.
Los Blancos dominated from the start and defensive midfielder Casemiro put them ahead, though there were calls for offside. Isco doubled the lead in the second-half after a lovely one-two with Gareth Bale, who seems set for a Bernabeu stay.
A positive for Jose Mourinho is that new £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku pulled one back for the Red Devils in the 62nd minute, a tap-in from Nemanja Matic’s parried shot, but is that enough to make the Portuguese smile?
He cut a sullen figure in his post-match press conference as he realised his side are far from the level he wants to them to reach. It very much was the Spanish, European and world champions against the sixth-best side from England.
Did the quality of United’s performance create extra concerns for Mourinho? Was it enough to hit the panic button? Perhaps we’ll see Mourinho rage sign a player they don’t need…
RealSport analyse their loss in Skopje, Macedonia.
Lukaku’s mixed bag
Lukaku’s going to miss a lot of chances for United over the course of the season, but he’s also going to score a lot of goals. There should be no concerns over his acquisition and he showed great composure to finish from close range after a glaring miss only minutes earlier from seven yards out.
It was the sign of a striker unphased by a poor miss, still confident in his own ability.
Whilst he didn’t see as much of the ball as he would have liked, his link-up play was eye-catching and he sent Henrikh Mkhitaryan through on goal after ten minutes with a deft touch. The Belgian also effectively held the ball up, moreover.
There was one ‘head in hands’ moment, however, as he ran onto Ander Herrera’s interception from an offside position and committed a foul throw…
Another season of missed chances?
Real Madrid might have dominated United in terms of possession and general quality of play, but the Red Devils did have their chances to equalise and even win the game outright. Just as was the case last season, though, these chances were squandered.
37% possession isn’t entirely reflective of how much United created. They ended the game having taken 14 shots at Keylor Navas’ goal, two fewer than Real Madrid, with six apiece finding the target.
The key is to be more clinical. It was an issue last season and resulted in a number of drab home draws in which they dominated proceedings, but failed to turn this into goals. Theoretically, Lukaku should address this.
Will centre-back become problematic?
If Mourinho persists with this 3-5-2 experiment then we can expect these issues to continue into the Premier League season.
Antonio Valencia coped well at right wing back, but Jesse Lingard on the left was a poor personnel choice. The back three of Victor Lindelof, Matteo Darmian and Chris Smalling looked bundled together in a last-minute decision, incoherent and unfamiliar with their roles.
In truth, neither wing back helped the defence out too much, though, and it allowed Bale and Dani Carvajal to run at Lindelof and Darmian one-on-one, which both defenders struggled with.
It exposed Lindelof’s lack of speed and strength, key attributes to cope with the physicality of the Premier League.
His positioning isn’t yet good enough to compensate for a lack of pace and he lost Casemiro in the build-up the opener, despite the Brazilian’s perceived offside position.
Once United shifted to a back four as the game wore on, the unit looked far more in control and cohesive. For the Premier League season, this the best way forward. Stick with the tried and tested 4-3-3. Reintroduce the 3-5-2 once the squad have had more time to get to grips with its demands.
United were without Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo, all of whom will bolster their defensive options and improve the quality of the unit.
The midfield dynamic
If there’s one big positive to take out of the game it’s that Nemanja Matic impressed. He played more passes than any other United player and created two clear-cut scoring opportunities, with his stinging shot leading to Lukaku’s goal.
He also slotted in seamlessly in front of the defence and added a vital defensive presence to the side. The Serb also seemed to form a good relationship with Herrera in the middle, knowing when to take the ball forwards or drop deep when the Spaniard went roaming.
The concerning aspect, though, was the performance of Paul Pogba. For a majority of the game, he was fairly anonymous and his decision-making wasn’t at its finest.
He was selfish when he should have been more selfless and often played the wrong pass, leading to the breakdown of attacking moves.
RealSport verdict: Areas to improve
Pressing the panic button after one competitive game against the best team on the planet would be jumping the gun and the manner in which they were beaten isn’t too great a cause for concern. Their performance wasn’t exactly terrible, but it wasn’t good to say the least.
It’s in individual areas that Mourinho should be concerned heading into the start of the Premier League season and demonstrated that there’s a significant amount of work to be done to be ready.
It's not every week they're going to be playing Real Madrid anyway...
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?