The Philip II Arena is set to host the clash of UEFA’s reigning Champions as Europa League holders Manchester United take on Champions League winners Real Madrid.
It will be the second meeting this summer between the two sides. Their first clash resulted in a 1-1 draw, when they met in California as a part of their pre-season tour, after which United went on to triumph 2-1 thanks to the lacklustre penalty shootout.
Real haven’t exactly had a pre-season to boast about. They managed only 1 win in four games, which came against the MLS all stars. Besides their defeat at the hands of United, they suffered losses against Manchester City and arch rivals Barcelona.
Manchester United on the other hand, have enjoyed a far better pre-season. The Red Devils have won 6 out of their 7 games, losing only to Barcelona thanks to a solitary Neymar goal and they will no doubt be looking to carry on that good form tonight in Macedonia.
While those fixtures were just a part of pre-season meant to get the players back to match fitness, help market their teams and increase their global fanbase, this fixture is one of the biggest of the season and we can expect both sides to take this clash much more seriously.
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Zinedine Zidane only recently welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo to training, as the Portuguese international had missed out on pre-season, and the former Manchester United superstar will most likely feature, after the Frenchman revealed that the 32-year-old was fit and ready to play.
Welsh wizard Gareth Bale, who Mourinho recently confirmed Manchester United were interested in, is expected to be fit for tonight’s clash and will likely start on the right wing. Zidane isn’t short of options however, with Lucas Vazquez and Isco waiting on the sidelines for a call-up.
Besides the inclusion of Bale, the rest of the team is likely to be the exact same one that started in the Champions League final against Juventus back in June and Zidane is expected to set up his side in the now standard 4-3-3 system with Benzema leading the line.
The Frenchman doesn’t have any major injury concerns going into this tie and seems to have a fully fit squad available to him. Summers signings Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos have also travelled with the squad and could make their official debut for Los Blancos tonight.
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3): Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Going into this tie, Jose Mourinho will be without the services of 4 defenders – Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are both suspended, while Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, are still nursing their injuries alongside Ashley Young, who is also set to miss this fixture.
Summer signings Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof are all likely to make their official first-team debuts for United, forming the spine of Jose Mourinho’s side. The Red Devils are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with De Gea in goal.
Mourinho, who has opted for a 3-man defence on occasion could use a 3-4-1-1/3-5-2 as well, but given Real’s attacking prowess and Bailly’s absence, he will likely stick with a 4-man defence. Pogba will likely be given freedom to attack further up the pitch, with Matic and Herrera providing cover.
Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will likely be deployed on the left and right wings respectively, with Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia as their respective fullbacks. Romelu Lukaku will most likely lead the Red Devils’ attack ahead of Marcus Rashford.
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3): David De Gea; Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Pogba, Matic; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Martial
- After tonight, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho will be the first manager to manage 3 different teams in the UEFA Super Cup, having previously led Chelsea and FC Porto in the competition.
- Should Manchester United lose to Real Madrid tonight, Jose Mourinho will be the first manager to lose the UEFA Super Cup with three different teams.
- 7 out of the previous 8 UEFA Super Cups have been won by a La Liga side.
- Real Madrid have won 3 UEFA Super Cups. Only Barcelona and AC Milan have more(5).
- Real Madrid have finished as UEFA Super Cup runners up on 5 previous occasions.
- Manchester United has previously won 1 UEFA Super Cup and finished as runners up on 2 previous occasions.
Real Madrid 3-2 Manchester United
Los Blancos will no doubt be looking to put their awful pre-season behind them and will be significantly boosted by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo. However, United are in better form and Jose Mourinho will be anxious for a victory over his former side.
Though both teams are expected to be at full strength, Real make for better reading on paper and are a more solid, cohesive, tried and tested unit than the Manchester United, who will still likely be adjusting with the new personnel in their squad.
This may prove to be a good competition, but Real Madrid’s quality should see them overcome the Red Devils. However, games aren’t won on paper and United do have the quality to overcome Zinedine Zidane’s men and they certainly won’t go down without a fight.
Given that this is, for all intents and purposes a UEFA trophy on the line, neither side will be taking this lightly and will look to set the tone for the rest of their season with a win tonight – something that would undoubtedly serve as a huge morale boost before the start of their domestic campaigns.