Confession; I am a big, unapologetic Man U fan. With that out of the way, let’s begin!
And so it begins…
Yes, 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.
Any team news?
Well, 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 was given added time off after his exploits with Portugal in the Confederations Cup.
What is the Super Cup?
Similar to the FA’s Community Shield, it’s UEFA’s traditional annual curtain-raiser, which pits the winners of last season’s 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 honors, while Real Madrid became the first team to retain the Champions League with a devastating 4-1 victory over Juventus in May’s final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
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.
Any other facts and figures?
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.
Who’s the referee?
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.