Solid United To Frustrate Los Galacticos
Manchester United v Real Madrid
European Champions Real Madrid take on Manchester United in Michigan as both sides step up their preparations for the long season ahead in Europe.
Real’s only pre-season fixtures to date have both taken place in the United States as part of the International Champions Cup which will see them face Louis van Gaal’s side in their third game. The ten-time winners of the European Cup have been far for from the performances which saw Los Merengues beat the newly-crowned Spanish champions Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the Lisbon final last May so far, albeit without the majority of their star performers.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side began the mini-tournament with a 1-1 draw against Inter Milan – before losing a subsequent penalty shootout 3-2 – the highlight of which was an absolute screamer from Gareth Bale struck from 30 yards. A 1-0 loss to Roma followed in the early hours of Wednesday morning with Francesco Totti grabbing the only goal of the game.
United’s pre-season stretches back only slightly further, as they too have only had games in America to prepare, much to the annoyance of their new manager. It seems to have mattered little though as Van Gaal’s side annihilated LA Galaxy 7-0 in the Dutchman’s first game in charge then ran out 3-2 winners over Roma in his second, with Wayne Rooney grabbing four of those ten United goals despite only playing 45 minutes of both.
Their most recent outing was a far tighter affair which saw them meet up with last season’s captain Nemanja Vidic and his new Inter Milan team-mates when after neither side could break the deadlock in 90 minutes a penalty shootout was won 5-3 by United, with skipper for the night Darren Fletcher scoring the decisive spot-kick.
With only Diego Lopez, Pepe and Bale to start so far from Real’s predicted strongest XI, there is huge scope for change should Ancelotti decide upon it although many of his big name players have only recently joined up with the squad following their World Cup exerts while new signings Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez aren’t expected to feature at all on the American tour.
Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to feature at some point against his former club with Ancelotti confirming that he is over the knee problem which troubled the World Player of the Year in Brazil.
Van Gaal has made numerous changes to the starting XI in each game to date and can be expected to do so again here. Right-back Rafael has returned to Manchester for treatment on a groin injury though and will play no part while on the opposite flank Reece James – who scored twice off the bench against LA Galaxy – is also a doubt. Robin van Persie will not join up with the United squad until they return to England.
Head to Head
These clubs have been drawn together three times in the knockout stages of the Champions League since the turn of the century, with Real coming out on top over two legs on each occasion to progress. The most recent of those came just two seasons back when a goal in each leg from Ronaldo paved the way for Real to progress 3-2 on aggregate with a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford sealing United’s fate. In ten meetings overall Real have four wins to United’s two.
United’s task here will be dependent on the personnel Ancelotti decides upon as Real’s first XI would be a daunting prospect for any side while the teams they’ve put out to date on this tour have been anything but.
It looks likely to be a mixed bag though, and as Van Gaal stressed his happiness at the performance in that scoreless draw with Inter
he’ll probably set his stall out for a tight game regardless and so the 6/5 on Under 2.5 goals going in looks to be a sound investment.