Manchester City 4-1 Real Madrid: Five lessons learned from their ICC clash
LOS ANGELES -- Manchester City cruised to a comfortable 4-1 win over Real Madrid in their International Champions Cup clash. Here's what we learned:
1. Change of style helps Man City ease to victory
Manchester City secured an emphatic victory over Real in Los Angeles, earning a win that will offer a morale boost going into the new season. They did so by being more direct than they were during Pep Guardiola's first season in charge, getting the ball forward more quickly rather than with a long chain of passes and possession football.
That is not to say that City have started to hit the ball long. They haven't by any means, but what they have now started to do is zip the ball forward by searching out the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling more quickly.
Against Real, City stretched things more than in most games last season and were much quicker and slicker getting the ball from A to B. Teams learned that they could stifle City last season by sitting deep and hitting on the counter, but this new-look approach will make that tactic more difficult to deploy.
City's more direct approach saw them handily defeat the European champions, albeit in a friendly, so it is a good start for the new way under Guardiola.
2. Real will be different with Ramos and Ronaldo
Real Madrid do not lose too many games 4-1, so this defeat to Manchester City will sting regardless of its preseason friendly status. But anyone thinking that this loss in front of more than 93,000 spectators in Los Angeles is a sign of decline in Zinedine Zidane's team should obviously think again.
This was Real without their two most important players -- Cristiano Ronaldo and defensive rock Sergio Ramos -- and they will be a different animal when they return for the UEFA Super Cup clash against Manchester United on Aug. 8. Ramos might even return against Barcelona on Saturday in Miami, and Zidane might want him back in the defence to avoid another hammering at the hands of their bitter rivals.
Toni Kroos was also missing from action -- the Germany midfielder was rested -- so Real will know that their big guns will be waiting in the wings when the serious stuff begins. But regardless of their absent starts, Real just don't lose games this heavily. There will be an inquest into this defeat, and they will hope to learn the lessons before El Clasico this weekend.
3. Gareth Bale is becoming a bit-part player
There was a moment inside the opening five minutes when Gareth Bale left Vincent Kompany for dead with a piece of trickery and movement that left the Manchester City captain rooted to the spot as the Real Madrid winger flashed past.
It was Bale at his incisive best, a display of magic that emphasised why Manchester United would willingly pay whatever it takes to sign the Welshman, yet it proved to be as good as it got for the 28-year-old in the Los Angeles Coliseum. There were brief touches of the ball and the odd run, but Bale did not take his opportunity to dominate for Real in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real's most eye-catching players before Zinedine Zidane replaced the bulk of his starting XI with youngsters after an hour were Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco, the attacking midfielder who became such a key figure during Bale's injury-enforced absence at the end of last season.
Bale remains a top-class player, but at Real, he should be the main man when Ronaldo does not play. The reality in this game, though, is that the play went through others, and he was no more than a bit-part player.
If Real sign Kylian Mbappe from Monaco, it would directly impact Bale's position in the team, so he faces a crucial few weeks before the transfer window closes Aug. 31. Bale does not want to leave Real, but the signs are that his club are already preparing for life without him.
4. Jesus and Sterling must stay on their feet
Jesus and Sterling are both blessed with the pace and invention to get past any defender, but Manchester City's young forwards are diminishing their natural assets by going down too easily in the penalty area.
In the first half, Jesus was fairly challenged in the Real penalty box but went to the ground as though he'd received a heavy challenge from Raphael Varane. Replays subsequently showed that no contact had been made on the City forward.
Similarly, early in the second half, Sterling broke to the touchline before tumbling to the ground in proximity to Dani Carvajal. On both occasions, referee Baldomero Toledo rightly ignored City's penalty appeals and played on, and Jesus and Sterling escaped a caution, with this game being a friendly encounter.
In more competitive fixtures, the desire to gain an extra edge might see the two players attempt to win penalties again by going to the ground too easily, but they will risk a booking for doing so and, perhaps more costly in the long term, earn themselves a negative reputation as a diver.
5. Danilo will need time to adjust to the Premier League
For a first game in a City shirt, full-back Danilo enjoyed more good moments than bad, but the recent arrival from Real Madrid displayed some flaws that will be exposed in the Premier League unless he learns quickly.
First of all, the Brazilian is primarily a right-back, and he was deployed by Guardiola at left-back in the Los Angeles Coliseum, with Kyle Walker favoured on the other flank. Playing out of position will exacerbate the weaknesses in Danilo's game, and his sense of adventure saw him lose track of Real's attacking players on more than one occasion.
On his favoured right side, his natural instinct might have compensated for the lack of awareness he showed down the left. But Danilo is clearly a defender with great energy and athleticism; he will need those qualities in the rough and tumble of the Premier League.
Playing in his favoured position will help settle much more quickly, but he might get that luxury.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_