The UEFA Super Cup is far from the most prestigious of trophies, but a trophy all the same, it was a good way to welcome Manchester United and Real Madrid back into competitive football in Macedonia.
United looked to defend deep but half way through the first half they were caught out by a superb run from defensive midfielder Casemiro, who was picked out by Dani Carvajal for him to rifle the ball past David de Gea and give his side the lead.
After the half-time break, the difference in quality showed as Isco’s neat one-two move with Gareth Bale saw him find space in the box to tap home and double the Spaniard’s lead.
Romelu Lukaku got on the scoresheet on his competitive debut but it was nothing more than a consolation goal as he pounced on a rebound as Keylor Navas saved from fellow debutant Nemanja Matic.
Here is what The Boot Room learnt from the game…
Despite investment up-front, Mourinho’s game plan remains the same
Jose Mourinho’s side had only one plan on Tuesday night and they failed to execute it. Trying to stifle the opposition and dent their attacking hopes by sitting deep and keeping possession whenever possible, it was the same old tactics that Mourinho has deployed throughout his career.
Continuing with a three man defence as trialed in pre-season, there was a lack of quality in defence and Manchester United were simply overwhelmed by the quality that Real Madrid have to offer in their attack. Against lesser sides it may work, but Romelu Lukaku was merely an accessory, rather than a key part of the game plan.
United lack the world class quality to compete
Juan Mata spoke pre-match to claim that the gap between the two clubs was “not that big” according to the Mirror. In terms of statue and financial power, he may be right, but in terms of quality he couldn’t be further from the truth. The speed and quality of Madrid’s passing and movement was enough to show that.
To be fair to United, their last Champions League tie against this level of European opposition came in 2014 under David Moyes, so it may be to be expected. Experience will help, but many of this squad are seasoned professionals at that level. Mourinho needs to get them playing together and acknowledge that his side still lack real quality.
Marouane Fellaini does have a future at Old Trafford
Fellaini is far from the most popular of figures with Manchester United fans, but he was one of few to come out of the game with much credit. As United looked uninterested in pursuing a victory, Fellaini added a dash of spirit and fight as his usual hapless style of chasing every ball and fighting as if his life depended on it got the juices flowing for United.
That kind of desire and ability to fight was in short supply and may well see Fellaini win round some sections of the United support. It’s unlikely that he will be first choice this season but his Manchester United career looks far from over given the extra dimension he can add to their game.