pre-season is over and the serious business begins in earnest for the Reds, starting with the prestigious UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid on Tuesday 8 August at the 33,460-seater Philip II Arena in Skopje, Macedonia. With the Premier League opener against West Ham United at Old Trafford also on the horizon, the Reds will be hoping to make a positive start to 2017/18 by taking home the first piece of silverware up for grabs.
The match kicks off at 19:45 BST and will be broadcast live on BT Sport 2 in the UK. Subscribers of MUTV on Sky or Virgin Media, Dstv Super sport 3 for those in Nigeria and the club’s MUTV app or online at mutv.com will be able to watch build-up from 18:45 BST in Matchday Live and listen to radio commentary of the game before watching it in full from midnight. You can also keep up with all the action as it happens via ManUtd.com’s live match blog and by following our official Twitter account @ManUtd.
The Reds enjoyed a successful Tour 2017, presented by Aon, with six wins from seven games. United kicked off with a 5-2 win over LA Galaxy, edged past Real Salt Lake 2-1, saw off rivals Manchester City 2-0 and beat Real Madrid on penalties following a 1-1 draw, before a narrow 1-0 defeat against Barcelona to finish the American leg of the tour. The Reds returned to Europe for a 3-0 win over Valerenga in Oslo, with goals from Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku and Scott McTominay, before rounding it off with a 2-1 success over Italian side Sampdoria in Dublin on Wednesday, in which Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata got on the scoresheet.
The Reds will be without suspended defensive duo Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, while summer signings Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Nemanja Matic could make their official debuts for the club. But Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Marcos Rojo remain long-term absentees. Real coach Zinedine Zidane could be sweating on the fitness of former Tottenham Hotspur forward Gareth Bale, who has been struggling with an ankle injury during pre-season, but it’s not yet clear whether former United star Cristiano Ronaldo will be involved; he returned to training at the weekend and has been named in a 24-man squad.
The UEFA super cup is similar to the FA’s Community Shield, it’s UEFA’s traditional annual curtain-raiser, which pits the winners of the Champions League and Europa League against each other. The Reds earned a place in the showpiece with a 2-0 win over Ajax in Stockholm to lift the Europa League and complete the club’s collection of major honours, while Real Madrid became the first team to retain the Champions League with a 4-1 victory over Juventus in May’s final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
United have appeared in the Super Cup three times before and been victorious once, in November 1991, when Brian McClair scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade at Old Trafford. Since then, the Reds have been runners-up twice, losing 1-0 to Lazio in 1999 and suffering a 2-1 defeat against Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2008. Meanwhile, Real Madrid have won it on three occasions, including two of the last three, and been runners-up twice. The Spaniards overcame Feyenoord 3-1 in 2002 before beating Sevilla 2-0 in Cardiff in 2014 and 3-2 in Trondheim last year, while they lost 1-0 to Chelsea in 1998 and 2-1 to Galatasaray in 2000.
It’s only a matter of a couple of weeks since the Reds last locked horns with the Spaniards, during the American leg of the tour on 24 July. United got the better of the European champions on penalties after a 1-1 draw in which the impressive Jesse Lingard’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Casemiro’s second-half penalty at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The last competitive meeting saw Real Madrid, then managed by current United boss Jose Mourinho, win 2-1 at Old Trafford to complete a 3-2 aggregate victory in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 stage in March 2013.
2016/17 was regarded as one of the greatest campaigns in Real Madrid history after they won four competitions in a single season for the first time. Zidane’s men won La Liga for the first time since 2012 and claimed their 12th European triumph, as well as lifting the Super Cup and Club World Cup. However, Real have endured a stuttering pre-season, which included a 4-1 defeat by Manchester City and 3-2 defeat by Barcelona, while they needed penalties to scrape past an MLS All-Stars team after drawing 1-1. Madrid lost several key players during the summer, including Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, James Rodriguez, Danilo and Alvaro Morata, and signed defender Theo Hernandez from Atletico Madrid and midfielder Dani Ceballos from Real Betis. They will begin the defence of their league title away at Deportivo La Coruna on 20 August.
Mourinho will come up against the side he managed for three years between 2010 and 2013. He won the Copa del Rey in his first season at the Bernabeu and became only the fifth coach to win league titles in at least four different countries after claiming La Liga the following year. Meanwhile, Ronaldo is in line to be reunited with the Reds, having scored an impressive 118 goals in 292 appearances for United in six seasons at Old Trafford before joining Real in 2009.
United are unbeaten in 11 European games and are bidding to become the first English team to lift the Super Cup since Liverpool in 2005, while Madrid are aiming to become the first club to win successive Super Cups since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990.
Italian official Gianluca Rocchi will take charge of Tuesday’s showpiece in Skopje. The 43-year-old, from Florence, will oversee his fourth United game and first since a 2-0 Champions League defeat by Olympiacos in 2014, though he was fourth official at the Europa League final in Stockholm. A FIFA referee since 2008, Rocchi officiated at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and at the recent Confederations Cup tournament in Russia.