Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United headed into the UEFA Super Cup encounter with high hopes. They were up against the team that had set the bar for supremacy, Real Madrid.
The twelve time European Champions, and the first to retain the Champions League crown are THE team to beat in the next edition of the coveted tournament.
The 90 minutes that followed in Macedonia were a testament to the gulf of class that exists between Mourinho’s men and Real Madrid. To say that Manchester United are a work in progress would be somewhat apt.
Jose Mourinho in a press conference admitted that Manchester United are playing with a ‘giant on their chest’.
Putting it simply, he says the expectations that come along with wearing the jersey is currently weighing them down, and that they need 2 more years before they can go toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite.
Manchester United were humbled by the European Champions, and to their credit did manage to put up a valiant fight near the end. But the distinct difference in quality between the two was evident. Much of Real Madrid’s supremacy comes from the functioning of their midfield trio, who on the night were at their mercurial best.
Zidane did inherit a plethora of stars when taking over from Carlo Ancelotti, but making sure they gel well together is all down to his masterful tactics and demeanour.
While the players are blessed with individual brilliance, much of their recent success has boiled down to their performance as a well-knit unit.
Jose too is blessed with individual brilliance in the form of Pogba, Matic, Martial, Rashford, Lukaku and much more; but the ball is in his court to ensure he turns them into a formidable unit.
You learn lessons from failure. Being the master tactician that he is, it is expected of Mourinho to learn and work on the tweaks that were exposed by Real Madrid.
Not all is gloomy though, as Manchester United can take a lot of positives from the game. Matic, who played just 45 minutes with this United team prior to the game was comfortable on the ball and the best United player on the pitch. Henrikh Mkhitaryan had an entertaining opening 25 minutes and almost was through on goal before tripping over his own leg. He only needs to work on maintaining that level of intensity for longer intervals of time. Matteo Darmian continues to prove his worth to Manchester United by once again showing his defensive agility, playing in a position that is far from his natural.
Also, this Real Madrid team was the same one that decimated Juventus 4-0 in the Champions League finals, with the exception of Ronaldo and Nacho being left out. Coming out with a scoreline of 2-1 is sure to give a few optimistic fans a good sign, of better things to come perhaps.
With that being said, maybe Jose is right. Manchester United are definitely a work in progress and will need at least 2 more years before they can compete with Europe’s finest.