“When two Elephants fights the grass suffers”, so says the popular age long proverb. The two Elephants in question here are European juggernauts and they don’t come any bigger than; Real Madrid the Champions League winners, vs Manchester United who are the current holders of the Europa League. There are no questions whatsoever that these two footballing power houses are the most powerful, the most successful, and the most commercially, viable teams in Europe and the whole universe. Albeit, there are other pretenders but none yet can match these humongous two. On August 8, in the Macedonia capital city of Skopje, Manchester United will do battle with Real Madrid in the quest for the European Super Cup nonetheless, the International Champions Cup pre season game serves us a prelude to what will be a tasty encounter come August 8, which is a competitive contest that will determine the true champions of Europe between Europa winners and the Champions League winners. Done with the preambles, i shall now analyze the interesting game played out on July 30, in Santa Clara, CA, USA.
INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP
- July 23, 2017
- Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California Referee: K. Scott
K. Navas (Casilla 46mins), Nacho (Quezeda 46mins), Marcelo (Hernandez 46mins), Carvajal (Hakimi 46mins), Modric (Casemiro 46mins), Kross (Kovacic 46mins), Isco (Oscar 46mins), Vasquez (Alvaro 46mins), Varane (Manu 46mins), Benzema (Dani Gomez 46mins), Gareth Bale (Feuillassier 46min).
Romero (De Gea 46mins), Fosu Mensah (Tuanzebe 46 mins), Bailly (Lindelof 46mins), Jones (Smalling 46mins), Damian (Valencia 77mins), Pereira ( Blind 46mins), Fellaini (Herrera 46mins), Lindgard (Mikhitaryan 46mins), Carrick (Pogba 46mins), Herrera (Mc Tominay 52mins), Rashford (Lukaku 46mins).
Man Utd edged the earlier exchanges with two shots on target and none to Madrid, including 60 against 40 ball possessions. On 30mins, the game was temporarily halted for a water break apparently, the searing heat of Santa Clara was telling on the players and they needed the break so much. The game resumed again on 33mins, with Real Madrid this time around looking more determined than the largely second string United side.
Then came the moment of magic that got fans off their seats and baying for more; on the 46mins, Anthony Martial who until then has largely been caged picked up a harmless pass from Fellaini, and astonishingly annihilated 4 on rushing Madrid players who tried in futility to halt him before laying an on the plate pass to an unmarked Lindgard to tap into the net for the opener. What a moment of enormous skills displayed by Martial whose sale or loan move has already been mooted this summer, but with a performance like this, and more so on a consistent basis he is going no where. Carvajal particularly came worse off Martial’s dazzles as he was turned inside out to the hugely entertained crowd’s likening. Moments later, referee K. Scott brought the half to an end on 48mins.
As it is customary with pre seasons friendlies the two coaches made plenty changes with Zidane changing his entire 11 and brought on 11 others largely made of second team players, while Jose Mourinho effected 9 changes. Madrid looking to cancel the 1 nil deficit were the better side after the break even though United potential first team players were now on the pitch just as it was the other way round in the first half. On 52mins, Herrera was replaced by academy player Mc Tominay after failing to recover from Oscar kneel dash to his ribs earlier on.
Real young horns as directed by wise head Casemiro continue to pose series of problems for the United defense with their crispy interchanges. 60mins, Blind crossed into the area an inviting ball which Lukaku and Fellaini, failed to connect but ensued into a corner for Man Utd. 66mins, United are again dominating the ball possessions 52 to Madrid’s 48, on 67mins, Lindelof naively hacked down Hernandez inside the box and consequently, the referee points to the spot. Casemiro dispatched a cool penalty to draw the game level at 1-1. Oh my God! De Gea pulls a top drawer save from a Madrid’s free kick taken from edge of the box on 72mins.
On 73mins, the referee blows his whistle for another water break. On 77mins, the game was on again and few minutes later, on 82mins, Fellaini missed a begging chance to take United ahead after failing to connect a free header inside the area. 86mins, Madrid takes a corner, 87mins, 18 year old Gomez shoots over the bar and on 90mins we have 3mins added time. Full time on 90mins+3 and penalty kick next.
Manchester United are the first takers.
United pen1: Martial misses. Madrid pen1: Kovacic missed too.
United pen2: Mc Tominay failed to score. Madrid pen2: Oscar agonizingly misses it
United pen3: Mikhitaryan scores. Madrid pen3: goal
United pen4: Lindelof, now short of confidence missed his kick. Madrid pen4: Hernandez misses
United pen5: Blind scores a beauty. Madrid pen5: Casemiro surprisingly failed to score.
Manchester United and Jose Mourinho have the initial bragging rights after winning it 2-1 on penalties.
Finally, we look forward to August 8, season two encounter when the two teams will competitively battle it out in Skopje, Macedonia for the much coveted European Super Cup. However, until then both teams will have ample time to assess their squads critically before the competitive games comes in thick and fast.