Mourinho takes positives from learning Real lesson
SKOPJE — Jose Mourinho insisted Manchester United had emerged from its UEFA Super Cup trip reinforced despite a somewhat flattering 2-1 loss to Real Madrid on Tuesday.
The Portuguese manager expected a tough night against the reigning European champion, and United was fortunate to get away with only conceding goals by Casemiro and Isco.
Casemiro hit the bar when the match at Philip II Arena was still scoreless, and Gareth Bale blasted a shot off the woodword after the break.
But on a sweltering night in Macedonia’s capital, Skopje, last season’s Europa League winner improved in the final stages after Romelu Lukaku cut the deficit in half.
“I always say the Champions League is one thing and the Europa League is another, and the Champions League winner obviously has a different potential,” said former Real coach Mourinho.
“So for us to come here and do the positive things we did, I think we have to keep that positive feeling into the new season, and into the Champions League in September.
“I think this Super Cup was a great experience for us.”
Mourinho, who gave away his runner-up medal to a young fan behind the goal, drew solace from his belief that United won’t face the same level of Madrid’s midfield quality in the Premier League, which kicks off this weekend.
“We have top teams with different qualities. There are no replicas of (Luka) Modric, (Toni) Kroos, Isco or Casemiro,” he said.
As well as the Europa League, United won the League Cup last season but is under pressure to improve after laboring to a sixth-place finish in the league.
It begins its campaign at home to West Ham United on Sunday and summer signings Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Nemanja Matic will all hope to have done enough in Skopje to keep their places against the Hammers.
Mourinho was especially pleased with ex-Chelsea midfielder Matic, saying the Serb “moved the ball well and gave balance to the team to start building from the back”.
Lukaku also earned praise from his manager after the $97 million recruit from Everton scored in his competitive debut, but United’s attack looked like it could still do with the match-winning quality of a player like Bale.
Mourinho had mischievously suggested he would interpret Bale as being for sale and would therefore make a move for the Welshman if he did not start for Real.
But Bale did start, setting up Isco’s goal as well as hitting the bar before being replaced in the 74th minute.
Mourinho later told BT Sport it was “game over” as far as a move for the former Tottenham and Southampton player was concerned.
For all his success in the game, Mourinho has still never won the Super Cup, while Real boss Zinedine Zidane has now won the trophy two years running, bringing the Spanish giant’s total number of victories to four.
Zidane’s success in his time as coach has been very impressive. This was the Frenchman’s sixth trophy since being appointed in January last year.
“There were big celebrations in the dressing room, we don’t get tired of winning,” said the 45-year-old one-time Galactico, whose side will defend both the Champions League crown and La Liga this season.
Barcelona is reportedly close to buying Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho as it looks to fill the void left by Neymar’s worldrecord transfer to Paris SaintGermain.
The Spanish giant already had an interest in Coutinho (pictured) prior to Neymar’s $264 million move to PSG last week. ue of the deal to $141 million.
Barca believes the Brazil international has the ability to replace Neymar alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in a star front three and could also provide cover for 33-year-old captain Andres Iniesta in midfield.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has repeatedly said over the summer that Coutinho is not for sale.
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric celebrates Tuesday’s UEFA Super Cup victory over Manchester United as teammate Cristiano Ronaldo looks on.