Europa League winners Manchester United take on Spanish giants Real Madrid with Jose Mourinho’s new signings expected to make their competitive debutsBuild-up
United have been in fine pre-season form having won six out of seven games, including a penalty victory over Tuesday’s opponents. But Tuesday’s encounter – United’s first taste of competitive football for the campaign – will be a different encounter altogether. The relationship between the clubs is already strained from various failed transfer dealings, and both will be looking to put one over the other. The game has the potential to be a tense affair.
The futures of David de Gea, Ronaldo and Bale have grabbed headlines ahead of the game, with Jose particularly declaring interest in the Welsh wizard – while citing the player’s participation as an indication of whether to pursue his signature (mind games?). Ronaldo returns to the Madrid lineup after missing the ICC encounter for personal reasons. United will be looking to build up some momentum ahead of the EPL kick-off come weekend.
Eric Bailly and Phil Jones will miss the game through suspensions, while Lingard and Romero are doubts after missing the Sampdoria game – but are expected to feature in the squad. Shaw, Rojo and Ashley Young remain sidelined through long-term injuries. Fosu-Mensah will reportedly miss the game as he completes his loan to Palace. New signings Lukaku, Matic and Lindelof are likely to make their competitive debuts.
United have available for selection: David de Gea, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe, Victor Lindelof, Michael Carrick, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Scott McTominay, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Nemanja Matic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Andreas Pereira, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku.
In order for United to have a foothold in the game, the midfield has to be strong, dynamic and mobile. Matic and Herrera should provide the steel, while Pogba is tasked creatively (while Herrera transitions attack and defensive responsibilities). With suspensions in defense, United’s back line picks itself – although Jose will likely pick Blind in place of Lindelof or Darmian. However, the aerial prowess of Madrid’s strikers means Lindelof should play, while pace on the wings demands Darmian – impressive against Sampdoria – plays at LB. In attack Lukaku is a dead cert for the central striker role, while the flank slots are a toss-up. Martial was impressive against Carvajal recently and deserves another bite, while Mikki has shown his quality in European games. Rashford should permanently understudy Lukaku as a CF.
Kick off: 7.4pm BST, 8th August 2017
Stadium: Philip II Arena, Skopje, Macedonia
Despite United’s impressive pre-season form, Madrid may have too much attacking power for the defense to handle. Especially with the absence of Bailly and Jones – who have impressed most of all CBs so far. This is one game that cannot end a goalless stalemate. Madrid likely to shade 2-1 or 3-1.