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Immediate Reaction: Manchester United 2 - 1 Real Madrid

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Real Madrid lose their first pre-season match. Here are some notes.

Manchester United v Real Madrid - International Champions Cup 2018 Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

Real Madrid lose their first pre-season match 2 - 1 to Manchester United (Alexis, Herrera; Benzema). Here is our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings and tactical review.


We had a lot of fun on Twitter tonight, humouring the much anticipated hot takes and overreactions from fans regardless of what the outcome of this match was. All in all, I missed doing this, and I had an unnecessary amount of notes from this pre-season friendly. Ah, I missed Real Madrid games — even in this capacity.

Bullet points from Kiyan’s notepad

  • Pre-season or not, I genuinely look forward to these games, if only to enjoy seeing the younger players put on the senior team shirt. Tonight’s starting line-up consisted of Marcos Llorente, Dani Ceballos, Vinicius Jr (his teammates called him ‘Vinny’ on the pitch, by the way, which makes it easier for us), Javi Sanchez, and Fede Valverde. That’s fun. These are players we’ve been tracking for a couple years, and are excited to see their progress.
  • It was fun to see Ceballos unchained tonight. This was the Dani we saw with Betis and the U-21 team — the midfield cog who wants the ball constantly. He has the Isco gene — funnelling the team’s offensive flow, and he even has the same tendency to run across the pitch to show as a short outlet (a superfluous thing, to be sure). He glides with the ball and looks vertical. Before Real Madrid started growing into the match and controlling the tempo a little bit with some nice passing sequences, Ceballos was the main binding agent into the final third. He had good moments hounding in midfield and closing passing lanes; though he did have a giveaway in the 25th minute which led to a United counter attack.
  • Odriozola speedy overloads are going to be fun this season. His crosses in tight spaces are accurate and well-weighted.
  • Marcos Llorente as a single pivot! It’s the little things! Llorente had a lot of touches on the ball today, and though we don’t have pre-season stats, he was probably the most ball-dominant player after Ceballos. Good interceptions and touches. A couple times in the second half he had a vertical pass available to Martin Odegaard, but opted to recycle possession sideways. He needs to be more daring in these situations.
  • Gareth Bale played one half. Nothing much to note either way. His touches were sharp, and tonight he mostly controlled the ball and either switched it cross-field, or cut-in for either a shot or through-ball. Swapped flanks with Vinny towards the end of the first half.
  • Out there but not that impressive (which doesn’t mean much): Vallejo, Valverde, Casilla. Vallejo was beat to a cross (a noted weakness for him) by Alexis for United’s first goal, and he had a heavy back-pass to Kiko causing a precarious situation later in the first half. Casilla was uncomfortable on the ball, and Fede looked a bit rusty coming back from his injury, which is always understandable. The Uruguayan was slow to react to Herrara’s goal, and had some misplaced passes without pressure around him. Valverde did look much sharper in the second half, which is a good sign.
  • Also underwhelming: Javi Sanchez, who received a deserved call up from Castilla after anchoring the defensive line last season at Valdebebas. He didn’t look in-sync with the rest of the offside line, and had trouble staying with cutting runs inside the box.
  • Vinicius Jr debut was good! He started off quiet, but even then, he did well defensively to close down the passing lane to Darmian and track his runs. He also grew into the match offensively with some nice dribbling sequences.

Some great flair there, even if the cross needed to be (much) better. He looked more comfortable as the game went on.

  • This wasn’t a great game from Theo (after failing to keep up with Darmian on the first goal conceded, he hung his head a little, and start misplacing passes), but this cross to Benzema was just perfect:

  • I loved Odegaard’s involvement as soon as he came in. He should’ve scored after missing a clear-cut chance from a great Reguilion cut-back, but he also demanded the ball constantly, showed as an outlet, and was never shy — all good signs carried over from his stint with Heerenveen.