SKOPJE —- Real Madrid, the world, European and Spanish champions, swept up yet another trophy by defeating Manchester United 2-1 to carry off the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje. Victory extended coach Zinedine Zidane’s remarkable roll of honour since he succeeded Rafa Benitez in mid 2015-16.
Madrid are favourites win a third successive Champions League title after following up their Champions victory over Juventus in June by beating the Europa League winners. United were outclassed at times in sweltering Skopje to give manager Jose Mourinho food for thought at the start of his second season in charge.
Casemiro and Isco gave the Spanish side back-to-back Super Cup triumphs, running out 2-1 victors despite Romelu Lukaku’s first competitive goal for United bringing the encounter to a tense finale.
United started brightly enough as they looked to win the competition for just the second time, only for a promising start to peter out as Zidane’s side flexed their muscles.
Casemiro’s header off the crossbar was a warning shot that Mourinho’s men failed to heed as the impressive Brazilian tucked home a fine Dani Carvajal pass as offside appeals were ignored.
Isco turned home after United’s defence was split open and Gareth Bale rattled the crossbar as Madrid continued in the ascendancy after the break, before Lukaku atoned for a poor earlier miss by scoring from close range.
Substitute Marcus Rashford and goalkeeper David De Gea impressed as United fought valiantly for an equaliser that would elude them at the Philip II National Arena, where manager Mourinho’s former side held on for their fourth Super Cup.
Defensive absentees undoubtedly hurt United, but the work facing Portuguese boss Mourinho was underlined here.
Mourinho is still hoping to make one more summer addition and admitted in the build-up that he would “fight” for Bale if Zidane chose against using him in the Super Cup.
However, the Wales international started in Macedonia and came close to opening the scoring inside the opening minutes after Paul Pogba inexplicably let a deflected Marcelo cross loop over him.
United, in fact, had started the brighter but struggled to create clear-cut chances, so when Madrid kicked into gear the remainder of the first half became a struggle.
Casemiro outmuscled Matteo Darmian to meet a corner with a thumping header that rattled the crossbar and, once Pogba wasted a counter-attack, a poor clearance from United’s Italian defender offered Madrid another chance.
Casemiro could only fizz over but it was to prove third time lucky for the Brazilian.
Carvajal showed excellent vision and no little skill to clip a pass over to Casemiro, who got behind United’s backline to slide a first-time shot past De Gea.
No offside was called despite a glance to the linesman, who raised his flag when Bale netted just before a drinks break – welcome respite from running around in the Skopje heat.
Pogba saw an effort blocked and Keylor Navas comfortably stopped a Lukaku header when play resumed, but the best chance in the remaining third of the opening period was the Karim Benzema strike parried by De Gea.
The Spain goalkeeper’s exceptional one-handed stop prevented Toni Kroos from making matters worse, with Chris Smalling then having to throw himself in front of a Marcelo drive.
The second goal Real were threatening would arrive in the 52nd minute as Isco played a lovely one-two with Bale, all too easily putting him through on goal as he curled coolly past compatriot De Gea.
Aug 08 – Skopje – UEFA Super Cup
Real Madrid 2 (Casemiro 24, Isco 52)
Manchester United 1 (Lukaku 62)
HT: 1:0. Att: 26,735. Ref: Rocchi (It)
Real Madrid: Navas — Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo — Modric, Casemiro, Kroos — Bale (Marco Asensio 74), Benzema (Cristiano Ronaldo 83), Isco (Lucas Vazquez 74).
Manchester United: De Gea — Lindelof, Smalling, Darmian — Valencia, Herrera (Fellaini 56), Matic, Pogba, Lingard (Rashford 46) — Mkhitaryan, Lukaku.