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Real Madrid dominated Manchester United for large periods of the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday before winning 2-1, confirming their position as the best team in Europe. Now Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane faces a dilemma.
Madrid have won consecutive Champions League trophies, retaining the cup in June with a victory over Juventus. They took the Spanish league title, too, powering over the line as Zidane switched to a 4-4-2 from a 4-3-3 after Gareth Bale’s injury.
Zidane’s problem is whether to stick with the 4-4-2 for the new season, or revert to the 4-3-3.
In the 4-4-2, Isco was picked at the tip of the midfield diamond. He linked perfectly with Cristiano Ronaldo, who slipped into a No. 9 role with ease after years on the left wing.
The formation suited Madrid’s strengths, and Zidane use it again against Manchester United, even though Ronaldo was benched, since he had only recently returned to training after an extended summer break.
Bale played up front, alongside Karim Benzema, and he linked nicely with Isco, too. The Welsh winger crashed a shot against the crossbar and then created the winning Madrid goal, playing a one-two with Isco, which put the playmaker through to curl a strike past David de Gea.
Ronaldo appeared from the bench in the second half, and Zidane acknowledged that the striker was finding his fitness and may be in contention to start against Barcelona on Sunday in the Spanish Super Cup.
“He’s only been training with us for three days, but he’s well and thinking about Sunday’s game,” Zidane said.
But with the rise of Isco, the vaunted strike-line of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano no longer appears to be Madrid’s best option. Isco’s quality is undeniable, and he is a fan favourite, too.
“His game and goal were very good,” Zidane said after the Super Cup. “I’m very happy with him because he grows more and more. He’s got art.” said Zidane
However, Isco has the lowest profile, making him the easiest for Zidane to bench. Bale and Ronaldo are two of the most expensive signings of all time, and both Zidane and club president Florentino Perez are particularly fond of Benzema.
Reverting to 4-3-3 might keep his stars happy, but it could have negative consequences for the team, giving Zidane a problem to solve. It is a problem other coaches would love to have, but a problem nonetheless.