Manchester United will wind up their disappointing pre-season tour of the United States with a fixture against Real Madrid in Miami.
Manchester United will play their final game of the International Champions Cup 2018 against European champions Real Madrid at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
It has been an extremely forgetful trip for Jose Mourinho and his men, having failed to register a single win in regular time during their time in the US so far. Manchester United were hammered 4-1 in their previous fixture by arch rivals Liverpool and the manager will be hoping for a strong reaction from his team when they take on his former employers.
Real Madrid will be playing their first game of the pre-season. It will also mark the beginning of a new era for Los Blancos, following Zinedine Zidane’s unexpected exit after last season’s UEFA Champions League triumph, which was then followed by the shock departure of Cristiano Ronaldo earlier this month. The tour will give new manager Julen Lopetegui an opportunity to assess his squad and impress his ideas on the team before the season kicks off.
Team News and Tactics
If one has been following what Mourinho has been saying throughout the tour, they will be well aware that Manchester United have a depleted squad lacking of as many as 17 senior players. The likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini still remain absent following their World Cup commitments.
Forward Anthony Martial hasn’t rejoined the squad following the birth of his child, whereas seasoned campaigners Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Matic won’t be involved as well with the former returning to UK after having picked up an injury on tour and the latter going under the knife.
To make matters worse, defender Eric Bailly is likely to miss out as well, after playing with a knock against Liverpool, while Luke Shaw is also unlikely to be involved. There is a small boost though, as Chris Smalling, who withdrew from the starting XI against Liverpool just before kick-off due to a discomfort, was pictured training ahead of the game.
Summer signing Lee Grant has looked commanding between the sticks since coming in and is likely to retain his spot under the crossbar against Madrid. The young duo of Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe are set to continue in the three-man backline for the Red Devils, with Smalling likely to come in for Bailly in the middle. No changes are expected in the wing-back slots either with Matteo Darmian and Demetri Mitchell being the manager’s only options.
Andreas Pereira has been one of the biggest positives of the tour for Manchester United and should start in the middle of the park in Miami, with Scott McTominay likely to be retained along with him. However, Ander Herrera might be given a bit of a breather by Jose, meaning new signing Fred could be in for his first start. Up ahead, Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez seem to have struck up a nice understanding and will look to build on it against Madrid.
Probable Starting XI (3-5-1-1): Grant; Fosu-Mensah, Smalling, Tuanzebe; Darmian, Fred, Pereira, McTominay, Mitchell; Mata, Alexis;
Madrid too will be without a number of their stars who took part in the summer’s World Cup in Russia, chief among them being Luka Modric, Raphael Varane, Marcelo and Casemiro. The Spanish contingent have rejoined the team, along with German midfielder Toni Kroos.
New manager Lopetegui is likely to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation for his first game in-charge of the European champions. Keylor Navas should get the nod in goal against United on Wednesday. The Costa Rican will have a point to prove to the new manager, amid speculations of Thibaut Courtois’ imminent arrival from Chelsea.
New signing Alvaro Odriozola might find himself starting as the right-back, whereas Theo Hernandez should feature on the opposite flank, despite being strongly linked with a loan move away to Real Sociedad. In the heart of the defence, Jesus Vallejo is likely to get a starting berth in Miami, alongside compatriot Nacho, ahead of club captain Sergio Ramos.
Academy graduate Marcos Llorente should start in one of the two midfield pivot positions in the absence of Casemiro, while the second slot is likely to be taken up by 20-year old Uruguayan international Federico Valverde, with Kroos only returning to training recently. After enduring a difficult debut season, Dani Ceballos will be hoping to kickstart things on a better note this time out and is set to slot in as the No.10 in Lopetegui’s side.
Out on the right flank will be Madrid’s Champions League hero Gareth Bale. The Welshman will now be the Spanish capital club’s MVP following Ronaldo’s exit and will want to make a strong impression in the pre-season. 18-year old new arrival Vinicius Junior, who comes in with a lot of promise and potential, should be on the opposite side. Spearheading the attack for the Merengues will be Frenchman Karim Benzema, with a point or two to prove.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Navas; Odriozola, Vallejo, Nacho, Hernandez; Llorente, Valverde; Bale, Ceballos, Vinicius; Benzema;
Journey so far in the International Champions Cup
Manchester United will have only pride to play for at the Hard Rock Stadium, as their heavy 4-1 defeat to Liverpool has left them with no chance of winning the ICC 2018. Prior to the drubbing at the hands of the Reds, Mourinho’s men had failed to beat AC Milan in regular time and had to rely on a penalty shootout to register a victory.
On the other hand, this will be Real Madrid’s first game of the ICC 2018, following which they are scheduled to take on Serie A sides Juventus and AS Roma. A win against United should set the tone for Lopetegui’s side to have a strong pre-season campaign in the States, before they kick things off in the new season with the UEFA Super Cup tie against local rivals Atletico Madrid.
Player to watch
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
After leading the club to their third straight Champions League glory, the Welsh wing wizard has hit the ground running in the pre-season training and has looked extremely sharp.
With Ronaldo now departed, the onus will be on Bale to deliver consistently for Los Blancos from hereon, as he looks to finally emerge out of the shadows of the Portuguese superstar and establish himself as Madrid’s go-to man. Having received assurances over his role at the club from the new manager, the former Tottenham superstar looks revitalized and will be raring to go against United.
Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid
The sheer number of players that United are missing puts them at a significant disadvantage heading into the game. The manner of their defeat to Liverpool last time out and the scathing assessment from the manager in the aftermath, might end up having a negative impact on the squad.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, seem much better positioned in terms of strength and quality in their roster, despite the lack of match practice that Mourinho’s men have had so far. And as a result, we at the Hard Tackle predict another defeat for the Premier League giants in their final game on the tour.