Monday 7 August 2017

UEFA Super Cup preview: Real Madrid v United

United's 2017-18 campaign begins in earnest with the toughest of challenges against Zinedine Zidane's all-conquering Real Madrid side in Skopje.

Four days out from the Reds Premier League opener at home to West Ham, United bid to start the new season as we ended the last: with European silverware.

Propositions don't come much more difficult, though, as the quadruple-winning Spanish giants stand in our way in the Macedonian capital. 

Similar to the domestic Community Shield, the annual one off Super Cup match pits the winners of the previous season's Champions League against the Europa League champions as a curtain-raiser for the new campaign. 

The Reds beat Real on penalties during our recent pre-season contest in Santa Clara after a 1-1 draw, but Zidane's men have proved an irresistible force since the French legend took charge in January 2016.

The 2016-17 campaign was widely regarded as one of the greatest in Real's illustrious history after they won four competitions in a single season for the first time. 
They became the first side to win the Champions League twice in a row for a 12th European victory and added the La Liga title to Super Cup and World Club Cup successes. 

Star man Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't featured in any of their pre-season fixtures and was expected to sit out in Skopje.
However, he's been named in Zidane's squad and the Ballon D'Or winner looks set to feature against his old club and former manager. 

Real could be left sweating on the fitness of Gareth Bale, who has been struggling with an ankle injury in the build up to this one.

The Reds will be without long term absentees Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young as well as suspended defensive duo Eric Bailly and Phil Jones. 

New United signings Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic look set to make their official competitive debuts for the club. 

This will be the Reds fourth Super Cup contest with our solitary triumph coming back in 1991 when Brian McClair scored the winner against Red Star Belgrade. 

Real have won the trophy twice in the last three seasons, beating Sevilla on both occasions 2-0 and 3-2 in 2014 and 2016 respectively. 

The last competitive meeting between the giants saw Real - then managed by a certain Jose Mourinho - edge to a 3-2 aggregate victory in the Champions League last 16 in March 2013.

UEFA Super Cup: Phillip II Arena (capacity 33,460) Skopje, Macedonia
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Match odds: Real Madrid 4/9 Draw 11/4 United 11/4

*Should the match be level after the 90 minutes, there will be extra-time followed by a penalty shootout if required

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