Real Madrid vs Manchester United – Tuesday 8 August 19:45 BST/20.45 CET – Philip II National Arena, Skopje
The European season opener pits two of the world’s three wealthiest clubs against each other in the recently renovated 33,000-capacity venue in Macedonia. Cristiano Ronaldo had been rumoured to be too unfit – or unwilling, depending on which report one read – to take part, but he has travelled with the European champions to face his old side and his former boss. The two-legged Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona follows this showpiece event, so it is unlikely the Portuguese captain will be forced to play a full 90 minutes.
Spanish under-21 star Dani Ceballos is a junior member of the squad that has flown to Eastern Europe and may well be given some minutes after arriving from Real Betis following his impressive performances for club and country. He endeared himself to the partisan section of Real supporters two years ago by claiming “a bomb should be dropped on the Basque and Catalan dogs” who whistled the Spanish national anthem ahead of the 2015 Barcelona v Athletic Bilbao Copa del Rey final. Whether he’ll be given a chance to let his feet and brain do the talking in the long term in white remains to be seen.
Manchester United go into the fixture on the back of a largely successful and profitable US pre-season tour where they beat Los Merengues on penalties in the International Champions Trophy. New record signing Romelu Lukaku has settled reasonably well so far this summer, but despite the arrivals of Nemanja Matić and Viktor Lindlelöf taking the Red Devils’ summer expenditure over £150m already, José Mourinho has publically stated he is not finished with his transfer dealings.
Given the disdain the Portuguese manager held for the Europa League – which earned United passage to the Champions League and completed their set of European trophies – it is unlikely he will give much importance to a glorified UEFA-branded friendly like this. However, it does mean an opportunity to showcase some of the youngsters coming through, and there is always an element of revenge on Mourinho’s mind after the acrimonious manner of his departure from the Bernabéu hot seat.
Real Madrid vs Manchester United – Players to Watch Out For
Cristiano Ronaldo #7 – Real Madrid
With the inevitable hype surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo any time he goes near a pitch, added to the history he shares with Manchester United, it was difficult to look at anyone else. His very bitter grumblings about his treatment by the Spanish tax authorities lead to strong rumours linking him back to Old Trafford this summer, but he remains the centrepiece of the Madrid machine. Others may not take this event seriously, but a serial winner addicted to acclaim like Ronaldo doesn’t know how to take it easy. Faced with a new-look defence, he will be a lethal threat.
Marcus Rashford #19 – Manchester United
The lightning-fast local lad has continued his upward trajectory ever since he burst into the first XI a little over 18 months ago, and provides the perfect foil for the physicality of Romelu Lukaku. His incision with the ball at his feet will concern Real’s defence, especially given the propensity of Marcelo to push far forward. The best form of defence could well be attack when Mourinho considers the threat posed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema – not to mention the absences through injury and suspension to key defenders – and Rashford is an essential part of that.
Real Madrid v Manchester United – Match Stats
- Real Madrid could become the first side to retain the trophy since AC Milan almost 30 years ago
- These two have made a combined eight appearances in the Super Cup, but have only four between them
- Manchester United have only ever beaten Real Madrid twice competitively, and once in the last 49 years – when Ronaldo scored a hat-trick at Old Trafford in a thrilling 4-3 result.
- The combined value of their two squads is over a £1bn
Futbolgrad Prediction: Real Madrid vs Manchester United 1-1, United to win on penalties
Real Madrid vs Manchester United – Possible Lineups
Navas – Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Hernandez – Modrić, Casemiro, Kroos – Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale
Manager: Zinedine Zidane
De Gea – Valencia, Smalling, Lindlelöf, Blind – Matić, Herrera – Rashford, Pogba, Lingard – Lukaku
Manager: José Mourinho
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.