Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United was by no means the thriller that this fixture has produced in the past, but it was an engrossing battle nevertheless.
Jose Mourinho had been quick to label his side the underdogs going into this fixture, and at times United definitely looked like they deserved the tag, but his tactics nearly paid off. In the end the superior quality available to Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane made the difference.
Here, we analyse the performance of the two managers.
Shots – 16
Shots on target – 6
Pass success – 88%
Aerial duel success – 52%
Dribbles won – 6
Tackles – 13
Possession – 63%
Shots – 14
Shots on target – 6
Pass success – 80%
Aerial duel success – 48%
Dribbles won – 7
Tackles – 22
Possession – 37%
The Real Madrid manager opted for a familiar formation, setting out his side in their usual 4-3-3 with Isco, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front.
After a productive start from United, Madrid’s midfield axis of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro, along with star man Isco, ensured that Los Blancos controlled possession.
Isco, meanwhile, wreaked havoc on the United defence, showing once again why he has earned a spot in Zidane’s starting XI, and the manager’s faith in Bale also paid off as the Welshman produced a strong showing – teeing up Isco for Madrid’s second.
Manchester United were set out in a 3-5-2 with Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard as wingbacks and Henrikh Mkhitaryan given a roaming role alongside Romelu Lukaku up front.
However, Lingard struggled in the wingback role and was substituted at half-time, with Marcus Rashford coming on in his place. As the tempo increased in the second half, the formation more regularly resembled a 4-3-3.
Mourinho’s gameplan was simple – defend well and play on the counter – but his defence couldn’t handle the star-studded Real Madrid attack.
United showed promise on the counter, but lacked a cutting edge at times and squandered quite a few opportunities.
However, despite being dominated they were in with a shout for a large part of the game, and Mourinho will rue the missed chances.
The Real Madrid manager was the more active presence on the touchline in Skopje, although he was still his usual calm, composed self.
He could be seen on occasions directing his team’s movements, but by now Zidane knows his side is a well-oiled machine which doesn’t need much in-match direction from him.
Mourinho was largely a stoic figure on the touchline on Tuesday night. His most noteworthy moment came at half-time, when he shook hands with Cristiano Ronaldo and put an arm around the Portuguese striker’s shoulder. The two have clashed at times ever since they parted ways when Mourinho left Madrid, but this was a public show of friendship.
Other than that, and a few of the usual remonstrations at refereeing injustices, Mourinho was rather calm, or perhaps he just knew his side were coming up against a better team.
Real Madrid are the better side, and after a slow start, they played like it. Zidane’s strategy has always been to have a simple, clear gameplan that allows players to express themselves freely, thus maximising his best players’ talents.
Tuesday night was no different.
Mourinho is still trying to figure out his best side, and it showed. The experimental formation was a gamble and it looked like some players weren’t certain of their roles, but, at the same time, while Madrid dominated, United were always in the game.
Against a superior side, Mourinho did the best he could, and if his attacking players had grasped some of the opportunities available to them, the scoreline may well have been different.