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MOTM: Nemanja Matic the player to shine against Real Madrid; Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia impress also

Manchester United were defeated 2-1 by Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje, Macedonia on Tuesday evening. In the first half, United were being beaten by the Spanish champions and UEFA Champions League holders, the likes of Gareth Bale, Isco, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric getting the better of the Red Devils, who still had a long way to go to reach the pinnacle of European football once again. In the 24th minute, albeit an offside goal, Casemiro broke the deadlock to put Madrid in the driving seat and there were many chances coming before the end of the first half. Just seven minutes after the break, Isco doubled the Spanish side’s lead. United, who looked much better in the second half got a goal back in the 62nd minute through Romelu Lukaku with United having the chance to get themselves back into the match, which did not come despite attempts from Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford. This United side will learn more from the defeat than they would have gained from the win, just in time for the start of the new Premier League season. Here are the Man of the Match contenders from the defeat to Real Madrid.

Nemanja Matic

The Serbian made his competitive debut for United against Real Madrid, previously playing 45 minutes against Sampdoria almost a week ago. There were doubts that the former Chelsea midfielder would be able to play against the Spanish side having not played a full pre-season, like most of his new teammates. Matic did start and played 90 minutes, plus added time against the La Liga and UEFA Champions League holders, show the reasons why Jose Mourinho wanted the player at the club. The £35 million signing impressed against the best team in Europe and the World getting one interception, two blocks, three tackles, winning 100% of them, also completing 100% of his dribbles. Many will now see why Matic will be pitted as the signing of the summer for United, even ahead of Romelu Lukaku, who scored United’s only goal in Skopje. Matic will be an integral figure in United’s side this season, easing the burden on Michael Carrick, giving United more options.

Marouane Fellaini

It would be safe to say the Belgian is amongst the most hated played ar United at this time. Many do not rate as he has, at times, been the weak link in the side. That said, without Fellaini, United’s success would not have been as easy to reach as it was last season. Scoring crucial goals to get United into finals, also doing more than he needed to do at times. When Fellaini replaced Ander Herrera against Real Madrid, United’s game changed. The formation, the system, and United’s threat. United did have chances in the first half but they were not as clear-cut as the chances in the second. A great chance by Paul Pogba, a header from Fellaini, a run from Marcus Rashford which saw the ball deflect from the keeper and go out for a corner. It was not all down to Fellaini if anything was down to solely him. but he helped change the game in the second half when he came on. The head injury sustained with a clash of heads with Sergio Ramos was unfortunate, but Fellaini’s strength shone through, continuing the game and trying to change it. Fellaini is rated by Jose Mourinho, we cannot change that. Some love him, some hate him. Fellaini is like Marmite. I would rather have the big Belgian in the team than see United play against him.

Antonio Valencia

The Ecuadorian will not be happy with the result, but days before United start their season proper, he will understand that United needed that match against Real Madrid in order to find a few truths. United have a long way to go and those who chose to ignore that, have now been reminded. Valencia has turned back the years, defending well, attacking well and just generally being that player United and Mourinho can rely on. Finding a replacement for Valencia will be a problem for United but in the meantime. having him in the side is a great thing. Against Real Madrid, Valencia tried to do the dirty work, was caught out at times, but who wasn’t and who does not get caught out during a match? Nobody is that flawless. The Ecuadorian’s experience will be something which will help United through the season whereby United will be expected to challenge for the Premier League title, something which may yet be beyond their reach, but we will soon see how the season prevails, starting with West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Conclusion

Manchester United did not win. It would have been great to win the UEFA Super Cup for the second time in the history of the club but at the end of the day, it just did not happen. United found out the gap between them and the likes of Real Madrid, which in the second half did not look all that much, but form is something that does not even play a part yet and the differences could be a lot closer, or a lot more distant as the season progresses. United may well meet Real Madrid in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, which would be part of a tough group, of which United will need to get used to. The fact that Romelu Lukaku scored his first competitive goal for United sees him off to a fine start, much like Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season in the FA Community Shield. The result was not the greatest, but the gap was not that big, based on the score line and the chances created. United were not afraid of Real Madrid, Marcus Rashford was not afraid either, which bodes well. United may have a gap to fill in getting to the same or similar level as the Spanish champions, but nothing is impossible.

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