Wednesday, 9 August 2017

United a long way off the very best but should take the positives

United might have taken the Super Cup into extra-time had Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford not spurned second half chances.

But there can be no hiding from the fact that mighty Madrid were the dominant and deserving team over the 90 sweltering minutes in Skopje. With their metronomic midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric effortlessly calling the shots, they had 63% of possession and hit the woodwork twice.

United hung in to show spirit and courage, but this was a match in which defeat at the hands of the best in Europe was a lesson worth learning. 

The Spanish side's superiority should come as no surprise: we're talking about a side who have blown away all before them over the past couple of seasons, setting multiple records along the way, against a team who were miles off the pace in the league last season. 

On this evidence, we still have plenty of work to do to rival the very best but there should be no shame in the result for the Reds. Despite the defeat, there are still plenty of positives to take from the match.

Romelu Lukaku had a mixed night on his official United debut but marked it with a goal and - one glaring miss aside - his performance generally proved encouraging. He showed awareness and intelligence to play Henrikh Mkhitaryan in early on, his link up play was eye-catching and he held the ball up well on a number of occasions. Fellow debutant Nemanja Matic enjoyed a superb bow in the heart of United's midfield.

He's been at the club for less than two weeks and had a 45-minute pre-season, but looked instantly at home in front of the back four and Real's victory would have been more comfortable if not for his contribution.

He also showed a willingness to push forward, and it was from his stinging drive that Lukaku poached United's goal. 

Marouane Fellaini has, perhaps justifiably so at times, had his critics but this was further evidence to suggest he still has an important role to play under Mourinho. 

We looked far more potent when the big Belgian replaced a toiling Ander Herrera in the second half, and his introduction allowed United to use a more direct approach.

His height, physicality and aerial ability caused problems for Madrid and he tested Keylor Navas with a good header in stoppage time.

Despite the addition of Matic and presence of £89m man Paul Pogba in the middle, Fellaini looks set to be an influential figure in the season ahead. 




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