- Casemiro (24)
- Isco (52)
- Lukaku (62)
Champions League winners Real Madrid deservedly came out on top against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the European Super Cup in Skopje. Casemiro and the superb Isco were the matchwinners for Zinedine Zidane’s men in the Macedonian capital, although Romelu Lukaku marked the night with his first competitive goal for his new club.
Zinedine Zidane started the game with a 4-4-2 diamond formation, moving to a more regular 4-4-2 in defence, with Luka Modric and Isco bolstering the midfield line. The Real midfield prevented the player on the ball linking easily, with Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro in particular intent on pressurising the opposition. Behind them, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane were solid throughout, only slightly more threatened when Marouane Fellaini came on in the second half.
In attack, Real were easily able to bypass the first line of pressing formed by Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Despite Jose Mourinho’s initial plan to always pressurise the player on the ball, the Madrid midfield constantly managed to unbalance or move their opposite number out of their shape, with man of the match Isco particularly effective. Cristiano Ronaldo looked an important absence on paper, but without him his team created a host of chances in scoring zones.
Zidane’s team gets better the wider they move the ball, with Marcelo a constant threat down the left and both Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale able to move deep or wide to create space for an attacking midfield. With both forwards also capable of attacking space or taking up position in scoring areas, the threat was constant.
With this in mind, the team often looked to connect with Benzema or Bale as soon as possible, to take advantage of any imbalance in the United defence.
After Real conceded shortly after the hour, Zidane brought on Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Cristiano Ronaldo to freshen things up and, above all, inject pace on the counter-attack against a Manchester United team going for all-out attack.
In defence, Real employed a traditional 4-4-2, with Modric and Isco dropping in to bolster the midfield line.
Man of the match Isco caused the United defence no end of problems. With the freedom to roam, he was able to find space in between the United lines and constantly pull the defence out of its shape.
An example of Isco's movement. Here, he attracts opposition defenders to him, thus freeing up teammates on their weak side.
The quality of Benzema's movement, especially to get away from markers and provide his midfielders with an extra option in attack.
Real's starting diamond formation, with the excellent Casemiro, who also scored, mostly featuring as the anchor. The movement of Kroos, Modric and Isco succeeded in unbalancing the United defence throughout.
In scoring areas, Zidanes's team was a constant threat. Here, Gareth Bale attacks the space in behind and is found by Casemiro.
The defensive line employed by Manchester United, with Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan forming the first line of pressure.
United attempted to press their opponents in wide areas, both from midfield and the wing-backs. In doing so, they were happy to allow the Real centre-backs, Ramos and Varane, relative freedom in possession.
Mourinho's men were disciplined when defending crosses, making sure they were well positioned to deal with balls in and taking responsibility for their own men.
The introduction of Marouane Fellaini in the second half allowed United to go more direct in attack, and get the ball forward into opposition territory quicker.
United worked hard to limit options for the man in possession. Here, we see Ander Herrera quick to press the spare man, allowing Jesse Lingard to rob Dani Carvajal and launch a counter-attack.
Real's second goal, in which Nemanja Matic fails to properly pick up his opponent. Bale is able to release Isco, who caps his fine performance with the eventual winner.
Jose Mourinho started with a 5-3-2 formation and set his team up to try to prevent Real getting the ball wide as much as possible. As a result, United were happy to concede possession to the Madrid centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane – but their failure to hustle quickly or consistently enough, particularly the front pair of Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, allowed Real to move the ball forward and find gaps in the United shape with relative ease.
The midfield of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera did work to limit options for the man in possession, closing down potential receivers, but their Madrid counterparts repeatedly found both space and time to play through them. As the game progressed, the defence dropped deeper towards David de Gea in goal. That only invited the Real attack on to them, although they did defend crosses well, rarely giving the forwards space or an opportunity to get a shot away.
In attack, Mourinho prioritised a direct approach towards Lukaku, and looked to use the speed of Mkhitaryan and the wing-backs around him, with Pogba and Herrera offering support from midfield. The main tactic was to get the ball as near the Madrid box as soon as possible, and they did offer some threat when going over the top of the defensive line for their forwards to chase.
After Isco put Madrid two up after 52 minutes, Mourinho was forced to amend his shape. Replacing Herrera with Fellaini gave the team another significant presence further forward and enabled them to go even more direct. Lukaku missed the first chance, but pulled one back after 62 minutes – and substitute Marcus Rashford even had a one-on-one chance to get United level.
A man-of-the-match performance from Isco, whose freedom to roam and occupy positions between the defensive lines caused Manchester United problems all night.
The quality of Karim Benzema’s movement up front for Real, repeatedly breaking free from his marker to offer his midfielders an extra option going forward.
The all-round dominance of the Madrid midfield, with goalscorer Casemiro crucial in defence while Kroos, Modric and Isco relentlessly worked to unbalance their United counterparts.
A superb individual display by David de Gea in the United goal – a host of saves kept his team in the game.
The introduction of Marouane Fellaini in the second half, which allowed United to adopt a more direct approach and hit the Madrid defensive lines earlier than before.