Real v United: 10 trending topics
Manchester United were beaten 2-0 in Houston by Real Madrid, in front of a crowd of 67,801 at the gigantic NRG Stadium.
The goals from Jude Bellingham and Joselu came at either end of a game in which Andre Onana made his much-awaited debut for the Reds.
There was an unfortunate injury for Kobbie Mainoo early on too, as these two giants of European football played out an entertaining encounter to ramp up the pre-season preparations.
Here's what we noticed from our privileged position in the press box...
BEATING THE HOUSTON HEAT
Temperatures in the Texan city remain at a swelteringly high level throughout the summer, but it’s the humidity that makes life difficult here for those not accustomed to the climate. Thankfully, the NRG Stadium is fully air conditioned and, with the vast retractable roof remaining shut, conditions for players and supporters were far more manageable than playing out in the open air would have been.
ONANA’S FIRST GAME
Andre joined up with United last Thursday and has been training with the squad regularly, but this was the first chance fans had to see the Cameroonian goalkeeper in match action. Our new no.24’s evening got off to a frustrating start, following Bellingham’s opener, but, overall, he looked calm and composed in goal, showing fans what he could do both in possession and in the more orthodox areas of goalkeeping, particularly when it came to his stretching stop from Vinicius Jr midway through the first half. He could little about Joselu's spectacular effort, which wrapped up the scoring.
Casemiro and Raphael Varane each won numerous Champions League titles with Real Madrid and this was the first time the pair had come up against their old club, after leaving in 2022 and 2021 respectively. There has been some change at Real during the meantime, with the likes of Bellingham and David Alaba filling the sizeable gaps left by the Reds duo, but it must still have been nice for Case and Rapha to catch up with some of their erstwhile colleagues prior to kick-off. Not that nice, though, as the Brazilian put in an early reducer on compatriot Rodrygo as he attempted to charge through on goal.
Kobbie got the nod to start in midfield once again from Ten Hag and it was all set to probably be the Academy graduate’s toughest test to date. Real’s engine room was stacked full of pedigree, with all-time great Luka Modric joined by Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni – three of the most highly rated young players in world football. Mainoo, however, collided with Rodrygo during that Casemiro challenge and was forced off the field after just a few minutes. He was replaced by Christian Eriksen.
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Check out the images of our senior Reds wearing the new away shirt for the first time.
Real capitalised on United’s temporary numerical disadvantage, as Bellingham latched on to a through ball to superbly dink over Onana after five minutes. Replays showed that the England midfielder may have been situated beyond the last defender – Aaron Wan-Bissaka – but the linesman’s flag remained down and, with no VAR in this friendly, the goal stood.
Ten Hag is constantly referring to the number of options he now has in midfield following the arrival of Mason Mount and we got to see another potential formula, as the ex-Chelsea man played with both Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes for the first time. Mount was deployed as the no.10, with Eriksen deeper and, therefore, Fernandes operating wide on the right. Whether this was to harness Bruno’s energy in trying to shackle the lively Vinicius Jr is something only the manager would know, but the Portuguese has shown time and again that he will happily play wherever he is asked.
MORE LICHA AGGRO
“We don’t do friendlies,” said Erik recently, and we think he might have been specifically referring to Lisandro Martinez when he said that. The Argentinian was involved in a flare-up with Bukayo Saka in the recent Arsenal friendly and he found himself in the book once again here, after a set-to with Bellingham. Martinez was late into the challenge on the Real no.5, but stood his ground as Bellingham got up and pushed him in the chest.
THE REDS GO KNOCKING
Chances for Mount and Marcus Rashford went begging in the first half but, after six Real changes at the break, United started the second period stronger. Alejandro Garnacho was looking particularly threatening, causing Lucas Vazquez issues down the left and stinging the palms of Andriy Lunin was a fierce effort on 56 minutes. Earlier, he’d slipped an intelligent reverse pass into the path of Fernandes but Nacho read the subsequent ball to Rashford and cleared the danger.
ROTATING THE SIDE
As the clock ticked past the hour, Ten Hag took the opportunity to ring the changes, as only Onana and Fernandes remained on the pitch. The latter came infield to sit in a deeper position and dictate the play, while Jadon Sancho reprised the false nine position he fulfilled so well against Arsenal at the weekend. Facundo Pellistri was deployed, unusually for him, as a left winger, as the boss attempted to share the minutes out. The move almost paid immediate dividends, as Scott McTominay ran all the way through only to be thwarted by Lunin.
STARS CATCH UP
The two teams remained out on the pitch at full-time to soak in their surroundings and receive the acclaim of the crowd, while Antony and Casemiro took some time to chat to fellow Brazilians Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr. England team-mates Rashford and Bellingham also shared a post-match word. These two sides boast some of the world's finest talent and there is, of course, the chance of meeting again later this season in the Champions League. That would have to come after Christmas, as we will be in the same pot as Los Blancos for the group-stage draw in August.