The UEFA Super Cup has become a curtain raiser for every new season. The winner of the Champions League faces off with the winner of the Europa League in a match the week before the major European leagues begin. This season, Real Madrid face Manchester United, for a chance to start the new season with some silverware. Here are some things to keep an eye out for during the match:
Romelu Lukaku does not have the fondest memories of the Super Cup. In the 2013 edition, Chelsea faced Bayern Munich. After extra time, the match was tied at 2-2, forcing penalties. In the shootout, a young Romelu Lukaku stepped up for Chelsea with the trophy on the line. His tame effort was saved by Manuel Neuer, giving the cup to Bayern Munich. Shortly after, the Chelsea boss sold Lukaku to Everton. The Chelsea boss at the time? José Mourinho. Fast forward 4 years, and it’s now Mourinho bringing in Lukaku to his club. It will be Lukaku’s competitive debut, and winning the trophy he lost earlier in his career would be the perfect start to his United tenure.
Nemanja Matic is the newest signing for Manchester United, and most fans will be getting their first glimpse of him in a United kit vs Madrid. He did feature in the final friendly vs Sampdoria, but that was only for a half. He is expected to make his competitive debut on Tuesday. United fans should be excited to have him at the club, as he adds experience and bite to the United midfield. His willingness to track back and defend will also greatly help Paul Pogba. With Matic behind him, Pogba will have license to go forward and create. This freedom should bring out the best in the Frenchman, and that could be bad news to the rest of the Premier League.
STARTING XI FOR THE NEW SEASON
As this is the first competitive match for United, fans will get a glimpse of the likely starting XI for the new season. Mourinho has switched between a back 4 and back 3 during preseason, but expect the manager to go with a trusted back 4 vs Madrid. Some starting positions seemed to be set. New signings Lindelof, Lukaku, and Matic are expected to play from the beginning. Others, like Pogba, Valencia, and De Gea should continue to play consistent roles this season. Some positions, however, are still up in the air. Anthony Martial was phenomenal in preseason, but is often benched in favour of Lingard. Those two will fight with Juan Mata, who started the Europa League final last season, for a wide spot. Blind and Darmian shared time at left-back, but neither has established themselves as the better player. A great performance in the Super Cup from any of the teams fringe players could go a long way to cementing a starting role later in the season.
DEFENSIVE LACK OF DEPTH
The season hasn’t even started, and United already has selection problems at the back. Marcos Rojo is out injured, and won’t be expected back until 2018 after an ACL tear back in April. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are both suspended, with Bailly out due to the brawl he started vs Celta Vigo, and Jones suspended due to a verbal spat with a UEFA doping official. Smalling and Lindelof are expected to be the centre-back partnership vs Madrid, with youth academy product Tuanzebe on the bench if needs be. There were reports that United could sell Smalling earlier in the summer, but Mourinho kept the player, which could end up being a very wise decision. He isn’t as good as he once was, but the Englishman offers crucial experience and depth. Smalling must hold the fort while Bailly is out, and mentor the two young centre-backs during the season.