By Mark Weasley
Manchester United lost the European Super Cup 2-1 on Tuesday night to Real Madrid, leaving it late to improve after being down 2-0 at some point in the second half. Romelu Lukaku scored a consolation, after missing a glit-edged chance, and the scoreline was flattering to us, as the margin could have been much more, but for some profligate finishing on the part of Madrid.
Goals from Casemiro and Isco ensured that the Champions League winners got one over us, and continues Jose Mourinho’s personal search for a European Super Cup title.
Though United beat Real Madrid in pre-season last month on penalties, this was a different Madrid team, high on confidence, and ran rings around us, meaning that we have to improve to be able to compete at the highest level of European football.
Here are three key observations from the loss in Skopje, Macedonia
Lindelof is still a worry
It is widely accepted that had Phil Jones and Eric Bailly not been suspended, record defensive signing, Victor Lindelof might not have started, and the 22-year-old gave absolutely no proof that those claims are false. He lacked awareness, movement, intelligence, and was at fault for Casemiro’s opener, trying to play the Brazilian offside and failing to do so. Lindelof has looked shaky right from pre-season, and must overcome his confidence issues if he is to make the heart of defence his alongside Bailly in the new season.
The 4-3-3 isolates lukaku
The signing of Matic has liberated Pogba but the Frenchman still didn’t play high enough to help the attack. Romelu Lukaku looked isolated upfront in this system and using a 4-2-3-1 system may get the best out of our £75m striker. His hold-up play is not the best, meaning that his teammates are far from him to pass to, and then run into channels to score. It might work against the smaller teams who don’t dominate possession, but against the big clubs, using a 4-3-3 without a floating central midfielder may not work for Lukaku.
United still need to upgrade to compete with the very best
All over the pitch, United looked second best for majority of the clash. Real had the better defence, better midfield and better attack, and despite spending more than £250m in two transfer windows, United must do better to attract more top class players to the club.
United couldn’t touch the likes of Modric, Isco, Kroos and Bale, and it is a source of worry. United have been linked to Bale, who will elevate us into that status, and against his potential new club, he showed enough to convince Real boss, Zidane for him to stay. United simply have to go for him if he is available.