Macedonia witnessed the 2017 edition of the UEFA Cup unfold, with Real Madrid claiming the ultimate bragging rights over Europe with their 2-1 win over an ‘out of sorts’ Manchester United.
Completely outplayed and outrun in midfield, Manchester United were behind their competitors on the night by a country mile, and that’s putting it mildly.
While one should be critical of Manchester United’s performance, it is important to note that Real Madrid played as a team, while Manchester United played as though they were trying to figure out what their best team is. With the football season to begin in less than a week, Jose Mourinho must address certain areas as he fine-tunes his side for yet another gruelling campaign.
David de Gea – 7/10
While de Gea cannot be blamed for either of the goals, he certainly deserves the high rating of 7 for making sure the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the Los Blancos. His smart saves of Kroos and Asensio gave United something to fight for in the closing embers of the game.
Antonio Valencia – 5/10
Hasn’t he had a shocker? The captain on the night saw both the Madrid goals come down his side of the pitch. He struggled to shrug off Marcelo and Isco and was not helped by Mkhitaryan defensively. Though he did provide some offensive support, his performance overall can be dubbed as poor.
Chris Smalling – 5/10
The defenders fall from grace after a terrific season under Louis van Gaal continues. He constantly looked shaky at the back and didn’t help Lindelof settle in terms of positioning and leadership ability, that can be expected by Smalling who is now a senior member of the squad. Did okay to hold off Benzema, but was disappointing on the night.
Victor Lindelof – 4/10
Much was expected from the Swedish defender after he signed for the club, but his positioning frailties were on display once again as he failed to pick up Casemiro for the first goal, and wasn’t tight enough on Bale for the second.
He has a lot of work to do if he wants to see his name on the United team-sheet regularly.
Matteo Darmain – 6/10
Darmian showed defensive zeal when employed down the left. He has proven his worth as a more than able squad player and one Mourinho can turn to when needed. Real Madrid switched their wingers as a result of which he had to face Isco and Bale. Did well to hold them off but couldn’t contribute to the attack as much as he would have liked.
Nemanja Matic – 8/10
Easily Manchester United’s player on the night. He boasted a 100% pass accuracy and a 100% dribble accuracy in the first half and it was his low shot that gave Manchester United a glimmer of hope in the latter stages of the game. He was visibly lacking support in midfield which was not provided to him by his compatriots.
Paul Pogba – 4/10
The occasion got the better of Paul. He knows he is much better than what we saw in Skopje. Unnecessary dribbles, bad decision making and laziness on the ball all made his night all the more miserable. It’s safe to say that he got schooled by Kroos and Modric and may have learnt an important lesson in football, there is nothing more complex than simplicity.
Ander Herrera – 4/10
Ander Herrera was Manchester United’s Man of the Match in their Europa League triumph, but here he looked more like a kid in the park running after the ball. Comprehensively outplayed by the Real Madrid midfield trio, he had a night to forget. Played for an hour before giving way to Marouane Fellaini.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5/10
Characteristic to Mkhitaryan’s performance last season. The initial stages were bright and full of energy but faded away as the game passed by. Could say he was out of the picture after United tried a more direct approach in the second half. That being said, he has a lot to do before the start of the season.
Romelu Lukaku – 5/10
Lukaku’s competitive debut was a mixed one. He had shockers, such as the offside decision given against him when Herrera had won the ball of Ramos, the glaring miss from Navas’ save of Pogba’s header and the foul throw he conceded in the dying minutes of the game. He did manage to end up on the scoresheet but had a quiet night.
Jesse Lingard – 3/10
The chances of seeing Haley’s comet are more than the chances of seeing Lingard in that first half. That description and the rating given to him is self-explanatory.
Marcus Rashford – 6/10
Much like the rest of the team and the front line, he too was devoid of service in the second half. Had a glorious chance to level the game, but scuffed the effort.
Marouane Fellaini – 6/10
Much has been said about Fellaini’s position in the United team. He was used pretty much as a second CF to Romelu Lukaku. To be fair to him, he did play his part.