Jose Mourinho has a point to prove as Manchester United take on Real Madrid
Portuguese manager taking Super Cup tie on Tuesday seriously, not least because he faces former side for first time since leaving 2013 exit.
April 2011 and Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is tasked with stopping Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia.
Barca are about to win the league and the Uefa Champions League in a year when they will win five trophies.
They are the best team in the world, yet Mourinho had been brought in at the start of that season to disrupt the Catalan machine.
When the Champions League and the cup threw up four clasicos in a month, he had his chance.
The games would turn ugly, the arguments around them personal. It was unedifying, vitriolic, but Mourinho managed one key win in the one-off cup final, an extra time victory thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo header.
On Tuesday in the high summer heat wave of Skopje, Macedonia, Mourinho has to do something similar. He manages a side against Madrid for the first time since leaving the Bernabeu in 2013.
He burned bridges, falling out with players and officials, yet a sizeable number of Madrid’s hardcore fans sided with him and sang his name long after he had gone.
They felt that he understood what their club meant, that he had the self-assured arrogance to handle a club of Madrid’s size – Mourinho claimed they were the biggest club in the world when he was there – and the strength of personality to go head-to-head with a clique of egos in the dressing room.
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He won some battles and even won the league title in his second season, but after three years of energy-sapping politicking, he moved back to Chelsea and London, where his family are based.
United fans are hoping for something similar. They know Madrid are superior to every team at present, but they also know they have Mourinho, a man who gets results – except at home in the league last season.
Down memory lane
Mourinho is taking this very seriously – more than Alex Ferguson, who won the Super Cup against Red Star Belgrade in 1991 but let two chances to win it again slip in 1999 against Lazio and 2008 against Zenit St Petersburg.
Ferguson on Super Cup
The Portuguese manager has been planning for the game for weeks, tactically and psychologically, stressing the importance of the game to his players.
He thinks that beating Madrid will give them a huge lift ahead of the league season, which starts against West Ham United on Sunday at Old Trafford.
His United side will be missing central defenders Marcos Rojo, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, but he has had time to plan for their absence and there was little between United and Madrid when they met in a Santa Clara friendly on July 21 which United won after a shambolic penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw.
Madrid may not be at full strength either, for Gareth Bale, who remains of interest to Manchester United, has struggled with an ankle problem, but he has been named in their large squad.
Madrid are relaxed. They have seen their rivals lose Neymar, one of their best players, and with less than a month of the transfer window remaining, they are also ready to spend big on another forward, with Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe long their target.
Madrid have also sold full back Danilo to Manchester City for €30 million (Dh130m), while Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Diego Llorente and Mariano Diaz have all been moved on as the club recouped €110m.
After May’s Champions League win over Juventus, their third in four years, they have spent €40m on Theo Hernandez, the 19-year-old left-back who excelled at Alaves last season while on loan from Atletico Madrid.
Zinedine Zidane has also signed another youngster, central midfielder Dani Ceballos, 21, from Real Betis.
Madrid remain over-stocked with world-class footballers, not least Ronaldo, a man who flirted with United in the close season, the man who won the European Cup with United and who saved Mourinho that night against Barcelona in Valencia.
Ronaldo back training
Ronaldo had extra time off in the close season. But he, too, was named in their squad which flew east on Monday.
He will play against his old club and his old manager, a point to prove as ever.
It is the same for Mourinho.
Updated: August 7, 2017 05:20 PM