The NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, played host to Real Madrid’s second pre-season run-out as Los Blancos took on Manchester United, with two summer signings on the scoresheet in a 2-0 victory over the Premier League side.
Jude Bellingham opened his account with a delicate chip over André Onana on six minutes, before Joselu added another on 89 minutes, this time with an overhead kick which left all in awe. They were two fantastic goals which made the wait worthwhile for fans in the US seeing their team in the flesh.
Here are three stats that help us to understand the game.
40%: Percentage of Real Madrid’s shots on target that came from Joselu
Against Milan, Joselu looked a little out of place with limited service and as part of a system which did not match his strengths. Coming on at the hour mark against Manchester United, his impact was substantial. Never more so than with an impressive bicycle kick that would have made any Real Madrid forward from history proud.
In total, Real Madrid registered five shots on target, including Bellingham’s chip and Joselu’s late second goal. Joselu was the only player to register two shots on target, with a total of four attempts, and led the way in terms of shooting stats in this battle. His physical presence made him a nuisance at crosses and set pieces, and three of his four shots came from far post headers which he sought to threaten with.
There’s no clearer indication of that than when looking at the crossing statistics for this duel. Against Milan, one out of 12 attempted crosses were completed with Joselu on the pitch. Against United, that figure was five out of six. The quality of the balls into the box was markedly improved, though there’s more on one specific detail of the crosses later.
This change reflects an important role of offering a number nine position. With no alternative, particularly after Ancelotti opted to leave Álvaro Rodríguez at home for this US tour, it’s Joselu’s chance to show what he can offer. His aerial prowess was the only one to provide any competition for Karim Benzema in that sense in LaLiga last season, and winning aerial duels again here showed that he can offer a replacement of sorts.
His work rate, winning four out of five ground duels and two tackles, showed that Joselu offers Real Madrid something else, and an ability to defend from the front. While he can’t compare to some of his team-mates in terms of technical ability, he’s showing that he can make up for that through pure hard work.
0: Completed crosses from the left in pre-season so far
It’s a curious figure that while Real Madrid have completed eight crosses so far this pre-season, three against Milan and five against Manchester United, all of them have come down the right flank. In fact, one of them was what gave Joselu the team’s second goal on the night in Houston.
Last season, the left flank was a slight concern for Real Madrid as the output from full-back failed to match the contribution from the right. That was solved somewhat by the decision to move Eduardo Camavinga to left-back, but it’s been made clear that he won’t be staying in that role this season with Ferland Mendy fit again and Fran García signed.
However, with more dependence upon the full-backs due to the change in system, we are yet to see results. While the right side is producing crosses, namely Lucas Vázquez, who has provided five of the eight completed crosses, including two against United, there is no such threat down the left. In this game, García and Mendy both attempted one cross each and failed to find their target.
This pre-season, we are seeing Vinícius’ role in particular change as he moves to a more central role. That is evidenced by the reduced influence he is having out wide, and that is impacting the output from the left. Responding to Managing Madrid’s Kiyan Sobhani post-match, Ancelotti explained that “I think Vinícius is having to adapt more than Rodrygo, as Rodrygo is used to playing inside. Vinícius is adapting, as he likes the position. He is really dangerous because when he plays inside he is closest to the goal. He is very fast and, with the ball behind the defensive line, he is very dangerous. I think he is adapting well and he enjoys playing a little more centrally.”
5: Saves from Andriy Lunin
For the second game in a row, Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Lunin started between the sticks with Thibaut Courtois not risked due to a knock. knock.“Courtois has had a minor physical issue and it didn’t make sense to risk him here. I think he’ll be able to play in the next game,” Ancelotti explained.
Lunin struggled at times when filling in for the Belgian in 2022/23, but he produced a very strong display against Manchester United. He made a total of five saves, including three inside the box, with the most notable denying Mason Mount in the first half.
Beyond that, his overall stats were impressive. He made two clearances, punched one cross clear and claimed another, and regained possession every time he looked to intercept play. He looked like a man high on confidence and with a great command of his penalty box.
There had been speculation about Lunin’s future this summer, but he will be very happy with how his pre-season is going given the strong performances he has produced against Milan and now Manchester United.