Manchester United officially kick off the 2017/18 campaign on Tuesday by going head to head with Real Madrid for the UEFA Super Cup title.
Having sat in the La Liga giants’ dugout when the sides last met in competitive action in March 2013, United boss José Mourinho now comes into his second season at Old Trafford with the opportunity for more silverware.
Romero to resume European role
The 54-year-old led his side to an EFL Cup triumph last term and, of course, the UEFA Europa League crown – sealing the club’s return to the UEFA Champions League and place in this game against Los Blancos.
It remains to be seen how seriously Mourinho will take this match, but given it’s a European outing, it’s likely Sergio Romero will start in goal having kept his place in the Europa League knockout stages last term.
How United set up in terms of shape is also unbeknown to most – a 3-5-2 was trialled towards the end of pre-season with relative success, but a Guardian article claimed Mourinho sees that more as an option rather than his main plan of how to deploy his team.
The Portuguese has almost always opted for a back four throughout his career and assuming he does go for his strongest team against Zinedine Zidane’s men, he won’t have many options to rotate. With Eric Bailly and Phil Jones suspended, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf are likely to start at centre-back with Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian operating either side.
Three debutants for United?
Lindelof was United’s first summer signing, joining from Benfica in June, but could be joined by two others in making his Red Devils debut in this game. Nemanja Matić is ready to play but is “not available like the others” according to his boss, but he might view this is an ideal opportunity to hand his new arrival the chance to play more minutes and build up his match fitness.
With Matić on the field, it offers fans the chance to see how Paul Pogba will perform with that defensive achor sitting behind him – the Frenchman will surely start. Not only that, though, it will allow Ander Herrera to show a different side to his game, should he complete the midfield three, and showcase a more creative style after succeeding in a defensive role last term.
Romelu Lukaku, of course, will be the third debutant, taking the central striker’s berth. Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could line up on the left and right flanks respectively, also allowing the option to switch to a two-striker system with a number ten just behind should Mourinho wish to do so. The latter has been a frequent scorer on the road for United in Europe and will hope to continue that record here.
Predicted XI: Romero; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelöf, Darmian; Matić, Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford.