The UEFA Super Cup is contested each year by the winners of the previous season’s Champions League and Europa League. That gives us the glorious proposition of a match-up between Real Madrid and Manchester United on the eve of the new season, and it promises to be an intriguing encounter.
The competition has been run in one format or another since 1972 when Ajax were the first winners, and although it is technically a friendly match, it is another trophy up for grabs. Real Madrid have won two of the last three renewals, beating Sevilla on both occasions, while the Spanish league is responsible for seven of the last eight winners overall. The last English club to win a Super Cup was Liverpool in 2005, with Manchester United and Chelsea (twice) beaten finalists since then.
Tuesday night’s game will be played in Macedonia, which is in the middle of the ‘Lucifer’ heatwave that has hit Southern Europe. This could be significant, as UEFA have announced possible drinks breaks to cope with searing temperatures, so fitness on the night may prove to be especially important in terms of the match outcome. Drinks breaks of three minutes roughly 30 minutes into each half are being considered, while UEFA has confirmed that each team will be provided with 20kg of crushed ice and shade for substitute benches. The intense heat could lead to a slower game, and if temperatures remain it will surely have an effect.
The Big Match
Cristiano Ronaldo has been named in the squad for Tuesday’s game and Real Madrid coach Zidane has already hinted that the star could play. The French manager said that he had been impressed with the returning Ronaldo’s fitness levels, and that if the Portuguese forward is with them it is because he is ready to play. Gareth Bale is also in the squad, and both players could be involved.
For United new signing Nemanja Matic from Chelsea could make his debut, but Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are suspended. The likes of Pogba and Lukaku are expected to feature in a strong Manchester United line up, as the Red Devils look to test their quality against the best in Europe.
The odds appear to be heavily tilted in Real Madrid’s favour, but there could be a little bit of value in backing Manchester United to pull off a surprise victory at odds of +260 with Bet365.
Madrid have won two of the last three Super Cups, and successive Champions League titles and one suspects a result in this match is less important to them than it is to Manchester United. After a few seasons in the relative doldrums, United have much to prove to show that they are still among Europe’s elite. A return to the Champions League this year will be vital as they look to reestablish themselves, and Mourinho is the kind of manager who recognises how important the psychology of winning is within football. A positive result here will enable him to impress upon his players that they deserve to compete at this level.
Real Madrid are a week behind in terms of preseason preparations as the Premier League kicks off a week before La Liga, so United may just have a physical edge too. While a win here will add yet another trophy to the Real Madrid cabinet, it is not a competition that the top players dream about, and two wins over the last three seasons may dent motivation for what critics refer to as a ‘glorified friendly’.
There’s little good to say about preseason form in friendlies, but it has to be noted that these two sides played against each other in the recent International Champions Trophy. A 1-1 draw in that match led to a penalty shootout that Manchester United won 2-1 after a succession of missed penalties. What is interesting is that (on paper at least), Manchester United played a weakened line-up as the game came just two days after they beat Manchester City 2-0 in the same competition. The likes of Modric, Kroos, Bale and Benzema were on the pitch for Real in what was arguably a stronger line-up.
A 1-0 defeat to Barcelona is Man United’s only preseason failure, but Real have lost to both Barca and Manchester City. Those games each had five goals, and it has been a feature of Zidane’s reign at the Spanish club that goals usually go in at both ends. Both teams to score is a -149 chance with Coral and Ladbrokes and it would come as no great surprise to see United and Real get on the scoresheet.
Manchester United to beat Real Madrid
Tuesday 8th August, 19:45 GMT
Real Madrid v Manchester United – Both teams to score
Tuesday 8th August, 19:45 GMT