It’s now two wins from two for Real Madrid at the start of the pre-season tour of the USA, as Los Blancos overcame Manchester United on Wednesday night in Houston. It was a 2-0 victory, with Jude Bellingham scoring early and Joselu doing so late on, and with both summer signings conjuring up stunning goals. They both feature in the below talking points, as we answer three questions and ask three more.
1. How strange would it be to see Modrić and Kroos take on Casemiro?
One of the elements we were all looking out for coming into this game was the reunion of Modrić, Kroos and Casemiro, the trio famously dubbed “the Bermuda Triangle” by Carlo Ancelotti. Since the Brazilian departed for Manchester United last summer, they hadn’t met again, but did so here. Only Modrić and Casemiro started the match and they both played until the hour mark, being joined by Kroos off the bench for the first 15 minutes of the second half. That was certainly a strange sight for Madridistas around the world, but the off-the-pitch hugs between the three will have warmed the heart.
What a moment between Modric, Casemiro and Kroos.— EiF (@EiFSoccer) July 27, 2023
One of the greatest trios football has ever seen
2. Could Bellingham repeat his debut performance?
In the days since Bellingham’s first match in a Real Madrid shirt, the compilation videos of his display have been racking up the views. The Englishman was brilliant against AC Milan and fans were hoping for something similar against Manchester United. Well, it only took five minutes for Bellingham to score his first goal for the club, and what a goal it was. Playing at an NFL stadium, Rüdiger launched a ball from deep like a quarterback and Bellingham found space like a wide receiver, bringing the ball down expertly before finishing with poise. Besides the goal, he also caused so many other problems for the English side’s defence, especially in transition, and won the game’s MVP prize. It really couldn’t have been a better start for the summer arrival.
3. Would Ancelotti stick with the diamond?
Although the first pre-season match, the comeback win over AC Milan, was notable for the deployment of a new 4-4-2 diamond system, Ancelotti is known for experimenting in pre-season and it wasn’t 100 percent clear if he’d stick with it. And, sure enough, there was a slight tweak as Real Madrid began with more of a 4-2-2-2. But, there were still times when the shape looked very like the diamond used in the first game, with Bellingham once again the attacking tip of it. It really does seem, based on the two games so far and Ancelotti’s comments to the media, that this is the way in which Real Madrid will commence the new season, and that’s quite exciting.
1. Is Tchouaméni the first-choice defensive midfielder?
We already know that the first-choice option to play at the attacking tip of the new diamond system is Bellingham, but what about at the defensive end? In last season’s 4-3-3, it was Aurélien Tchouaméni who began the season as the starting defensive midfielder, before he fell away after the World Cup. But, it seems the Frenchman is ready to grasp the opportunity that has been presented to him this summer. He played at the defensive end of the diamond in the second half against AC Milan and in the first half here against Manchester United, and he has looked solid. Given that it seems Camavinga will be given a more advanced midfield role, Tchouaméni really does seem set to be the first-choice defensive midfielder, at least to start the season.
2. How much will that overhead goal boost Joselu’s confidence?
Joselu didn’t have a great outing in the first friendly and missed a few chances before he scored his goal against Manchester United, but when he did ripple the back of the net he did so in style. It may only be pre-season, but the Spaniard’s overhead kick was a special strike of the ball and it should fill him with confidence. Although Carlo Ancelotti, with his post-match quotes, dismissed the idea that the striker needed a confidence boost, it certainly can’t hurt and a viral moment like that will make him feel 10 feet tall.
3. Will Courtois and Güler be ready for the Clásico?
The next stop on Real Madrid’s summer tour is Dallas, for a pre-season Clásico against Barcelona. And, this could be the match where Arda Güler makes his unofficial debut for the club, having missed the first two fixtures of this tour with a minor physical discomfort. Thibaut Courtois hasn’t been risked either because of a physical issue of his own, but both these players could be back in time for Saturday’s match. Ancelotti wouldn’t confirm either way if they’ll play, but that would certainly be quite a stage for Madridistas to be introduced to Güler if he does come off the bench at AT&T Stadium.