The Philip II Arena in the ancient city of Skopje, Macedonia will tonight host two behemoths of European football, Real Madrid and Manchester United, in this season’s UEFA Super Cup.
Real Madrid are the defending champions and qualified for this match after they defended their UCL triumph in June, while their opponents Manchester United got here via their 2-0 win over Ajax in May’s UEL final.
There are sub-plots for tonight’s match as Jose Mourinho will be facing his old side and would love to get a win over them, while Manchester United will see their former ‘golden boy’ in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo come up against them, although this United team will be barely recognizable to the Portuguese as Michael Carrick will be his only former team-mate remaining in this team from his days at Old Trafford.
We will definitely be in for a treat if tonight’s game can live up to last season’s UEFA Super Cup match, which saw Real Madrid defeat Sevilla 3-2 in a very thrilling encounter. Los Blancos have found the back of the net in each of their last 65 competitive encounters and the last team that stopped them from scoring in a competitive game was Manchester City in April 2016. Manchester United will be hoping to be the first team to achieve that feat this year and have their work cut out for them.
Reigning Ballon D’or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, was not to start tonight’s game following his extended vacation. But Madrid’s dire pre-season form has seen Zinedine Zidane announce that the Portuguese is fit to start tonight’s encounter. Real have been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer window and haven’t really made any splash yet, except for the acquisition of French left back Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid, so they shouldn’t have the problem of trying to integrate some players into the squad for this game with a view to seeing how they cope with new team-mates.
On the other hand, Jose Mourinho and Manchester United will be looking to make a statement with victory tonight. The Portuguese’s second year in charge is usually his best and they have recruited well this summer signing Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, and Nemanja Matic. They now have a physical presence, which is always an integral part of Mourinho’s system and Madrid will have to face that challenge tonight. In Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, United now have a dynamic, fast, and physical forward line that can strike fear into any defense. The addition of Nemanja Matic to the United midfield will set up an intriguing battle tonight in the centre of the pitch as the Serb and Paul Pogba will look to impose themselves on the tricky Madrid duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
The Madrid pair will need quick combination play if they hope to get any joy and avoid a physical match against Pogba and Matic.
Mourinho has already started his mind games by claiming that his team are the underdogs in this encounter and Zinedine Zidane will know better than to fall for his bait. The Frenchman will be focused on helping his team become the first side to win successive UEFA Super Cups since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.
This promises to be a fascinating encounter and Mourinho will want to get one over Madrid and solidify his claim of being at the biggest club in the world, while Zidane and his men will hope to prove that they are still the top dogs on the continent.