The trophy is unlikely to be high on the priority list of either side but a competitive match can still be expected when Real Madrid and Manchester United meet in the UEFA Super Cup final on Tuesday (7.45pm live on BT Sport 2).
The Philip II Arena in Skopje, Macedonia plays host to the gala event that sees the winners of last season’s Champions League and Europa League trophies square off. It is the 42nd running of a competition won on three previous occasions by Madrid and once by United.
Madrid are the reigning champions after defeating Sevilla in last season’s final. They looked to be heading to defeat until an injury time equaliser from Sergio Ramos took the match to extra time, where they triumphed thanks to a well-taken goal by Dani Carvajal. They are now seeking to become the first team since Milan in 1990 to successfully defend the trophy.
The club has been relatively quiet in the transfer market this summer, although there is still a possibility that they will seek to add a big-name signing prior to the closure of the window. Their current squad is an impressive one, but their focus now seems to have turned towards constructing a younger core that can take the club forward over the next five-to-10 years.
The signings of powerful left-back Theo Hernandez and ball-playing midfielder Dani Ceballos alongside the return of loanees Jesus Vallejo and Marcos Llorente have lowered the average age of the squad while maintaining competitiveness. While there may be occasions on which the experience of the departed Pepe is missed, they otherwise look strong.
UEFA Super Cup Final Betting Odds from Bet365:
10/11 Real Madrid
14/5 Man Utd
A key debate prior to Tuesday’s final and indeed the season as a whole is the role of Gareth Bale. Madrid played some of their best football during the final stretch of last season when Bale was out injured, and he was left on the bench for their Champions League final victory over Juventus. The local media have criticised his performances and output during pre-season, and he will need to step up in the likely absence of Cristiano Ronaldo in this match.
Man Utd can be expected to field a near-enough full strength team in the Philip II Arena. New signing Nemanja Matic will likely line up in a midfield three with Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba that coach Jose Mourinho hopes can provide the backbone to a strong campaign, while £75-million striker Romelu Lukaku can be expected to lead the line.
United only finished sixth in the Premier League last season despite a summer of big spending, including the £90-odd million they lavished on Pogba. From that perspective, it was a disappointing debut campaign for Mourinho, although success in the EFL Cup brought domestic silverware, while their Europa League victory secured them a Champions League berth.
The top of the Premier League is very competitive but it would still not reflect well on Mourinho if his side are unable to seriously compete for the title this time around. With that said, he is coach who always performs well in knockout competitions and as a two-time Champions League winner, Europe’s top competition will represent an equally important challenge for him.
Therefore, the opportunity to see where his side stand in comparison to Real Madrid, even if only in a semi-competitive setting, will be a useful one. Last season, Mourinho unpicked many of the problems evident under previous coach Louis van Gaal but still produced a side that was more functional than inspiring. The new signings should allow a switch to a more dynamic, counter-attacking style, but as always with Mourinho, results will be the priority.
Our Preview’s UEFA Super Cup Real Madrid v Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
With that in mind, this UEFA Super Cup final is likely to be a relatively cagey affair. Madrid will see more of the ball, while United will be content to sit back and seek opportunities to break. Goals have been a bit of a problem for Madrid during pre-season and the expected absence of Ronaldo will rob them of their most dangerous scorer, providing United with a better than normal chance of overturning their mild underdog status with the top online bookies and lifting the trophy. So our match preview’s betting tips are: