Real Madrid sink Man United and put an end to Bale gossip
Champions League winners secure the Uefa Super Cup in sweltering Skopje
Manchester United 1 Real Madrid 2
Champions League holders Real Madrid strolled past Europa League winners Manchester United in the Uefa Super Cup on Tuesday evening, perhaps emphasising the gulf in class between the two competitions.
It was a fixture that in truth neither side would have wanted, 90 minutes in the sweltering heat of Skopje just days before the season starts, but the Spaniards coped better with goals in each half from Casemiro and Isco. United managed one of their own, new signing Romelu Lukaku scoring just after the hour mark, but the English side were outplayed for most of the match.
Not that Jose Mourinho saw it that way, the United manager showing he hasn't been mellowed by the summer break with a whine about the officiating. "One of the goals was offside so with a good VAR [video assistant referee] it would be 1-1 and extra time," he said. "I think they could score more goals than they did, we could score more goals than we did. They had a period of dominance in the middle of the first half, we had a period of dominance in the middle of the second half and some balance in the beginning of the game."
In fact there wasn't much balance in the beginning. United, who started with new signings Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof, enjoyed just 39 per cent of possession before the break and were lucky not to leak an early goal when Casemiro hit the bar.
He made no mistake on 24 minutes, however, despite a hint of offside, and shortly after the restart Isco doubled Real's advantage when he finished off a crisp one-two with Gareth Bale.
United looked to be suffering in the 30 degree heat of the Macedonian capital but Lukaku's goal gave them hope and Marcus Rashford - a second-half substitute - would have grabbed an unlikely equaliser eight minutes from time had his connection been sweeter.
That would have been harsh on Real, whose only change from the XI that started June's Champions League victory over Juventus was Bale for Cristiano Ronaldo.
As it was, the Spaniards held out and became the first team to retain the Super Cup since 1990 and coach Zinedine Zidane warned the rest of the Europe that despite last season's success Real "is a team which remains hungry".
As for Mourinho, he is now the first manager to lose three European Super Cup matches having suffered a similar fate with Chelsea in 2013 and Porto a decade earlier. Nonetheless he declared himself "happy" with the result, saying: "We lost a game, lost a cup, but not the season. We are better now than when we were when we won the Europa League."
And the United manager also found time to put to bed rumours linking Gareth Bale with a move to Old Trafford. "Clearly the club want him, the manager wants him and he wants the club," he admitted. "Clearly game over. I think everyone knows he is going to stay."
Man Utd vs Real Madrid: Will Mourinho come out on top?
It might be a "glorified friendly" but there will still be plenty at stake for Manchester United and their manager Jose Mourinho when they take on Real Madrid in the Uefa Super Cup in Skopje.
The build-up to the match has been dominated by a simmering transfer feud over Gareth Bale, the Welsh winger who United appear intent on luring to Old Trafford.
Add to that a couple of "jibes" from Sergio Ramos about his former manager and it seems the game "will certainly have an edge", says Jack Gaughan of MailOnline.
That the Bale situation appears to be the focus of the build-up says a lot about the status of the Super Cup, which is supposed to be a "prestige match between two of Europe's premier clubs", says Miguel Delaney of The Independent.
"But then you remember that for all the other angles brought up beyond Bale – Mourinho's history with Real, Mourinho's history with Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, Mourinho's history with Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo's history with Manchester United, the two clubs' general history of tension in the transfer market – it's still just a friendly."
But it's one that Mourinho will be desperate to win. How he approaches the game could be telling, particularly after his side were outclassed by Barcelona during their tour of the US.
"Mourinho has never won the Super Cup and would surely love to do so against the club he left in unhappy circumstances four years ago," says Jamie Jackson of The Guardian.
"The schooling from the Catalans had shone a harsh light on precisely where United sit in the European hierarchy. Mourinho said that, as the United manager, it is up to him to outwit any superior force and so Tuesday's Uefa Super Cup against Zinedine Zidane's outfit is the first test of whether he and his players can meet the challenge."
There are signs that Mourinho is building a team that can challenge for top honours and that he's planning long term at Old Trafford, says JJ Bull of the Daily Telegraph.
"To keep his job, he needs to win. To please the fans, he needs to do so in style.
"Mourinho won't be introducing a free-flowing, carefree Man Utd into a frantic Premier League any time soon but there are signs that Mourinho, the anti-football, win-at-all-costs coach, might have a grander plan than only delivering the trophies his role demands."
The teams of Alex Ferguson featured "flying wingers, steel and power in the centre, creativity in midfield and a predator in the penalty box", says Bull.
Mourinho's squad has those attributes and, like Ferguson, he likes to play on the counter attack.
A front line boasting Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is not one opposition defences will want to see running at them.
"It's a team with a solid backbone, imagination and power. It has swagger," says Bull.