Real Madrid have lifted the UEFA Super Cup for the second year running after a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in Skopje.
The Spanish side beat Sevilla to win the 2016 final and goals from Casemiro and Isco had Real cruising with an impressive performance.
Romelu Lukaku pulled a goal back midway through the second half on his competitive debut for United, but the English side missed a few good chances on their way to defeat.
United started in a fast-paced fashion, but for all their bluster, chances were hard to come by and soon enough, Madrid started to dominate the game. They were quick with possession and managed to press the Premier League side into mistakes, but Jose Mourinho had the frame of the goal to thank for his side not falling behind in the 16th minute.
Toni Kroos was on corner-taking duties for the Spanish team and swung in a delightful set-piece that had the United defence scrambling, but it was Casemiro was met the cross with a diving header from six yards out. It was a brave header from the defensive midfielder, but he was desperately unlucky to see his effort thud back off the crossbar and away to safety.
It was a let-off for the Europa League holders but Casemiro was proving to be an unlikely thorn in the side of United’s defence. A poor mistake from debutant Nemanja Matic in the form of a woeful clearance allowed the Brazilian to strike at goal from the edge of the box, but he smashed over to the relief of the former Chelsea player.
The pressure was mounting on the English side and they had been warned about Casemiro’s attacking intent, but they were undone when Madrid took the lead after 24 minutes. Dani Carvajal came infield from the right-back position and picked out Casemiro’s forward run with a superb clipped cross over the United defence. It looked as though the ball was slipping away from the 25-year-old but he stretched out a weaker left foot and volleyed the ball past David De Gea into the far corner from ten yards out.
It was a fortunate decision for Zinedine Zidane’s side as replays showed Casemiro had drifted offside in the build up to goal, but the team of officials decided against using the VAR system to make a decision.
In truth, Madrid were fully deserving of their lead and could have added another goal before half-time, but United had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping it 1-0 at the interval. Karim Benzema broke onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and drove a low shot at goal, but De Gea made a good low save to keep it out.
Mourinho would have been wanting more from his team in the second half, but Madrid’s class in possession and going forward made it difficult for United to get a stranglehold on the game. Kroos forced De Gea into another good diving save with his wicked left-footed shot from 25 yards but the Spanish goalkeeper could do nothing when Real doubled their lead in the 52nd minute.
Isco, who was superb his off-the-ball movement all night, collected the ball on the edge of the box and played a classy one-two with Gareth Bale before slotting into the bottom corner with the inside of his foot. It was a superb piece of link-up play from the Real attackers and United were carved open inside their own penalty area.
United were struggling to get back into the game, but should have pulled one back when new signing Lukaku missed a sitter just two minutes after Isco’s goal. Paul Pogba headed at goal from Ander Herrera’s cross and Keylor Navas made a mess of a simple save, but United’s Belgian striker blazed his rebound wide from four yards out. It was a bad miss when United needed a goal as goalscoring problems from last season started to haunt Manchester United again.
Madrid nearly piled on the misery for their former manager when they went close to adding a third goal after 61 minutes. Isco’s pass found Bale unmarked in the penalty area and the Welsh international smacked a powerful right-footed effort towards goal but saw the ball thump back off the crossbar via a fingertip save from De Gea. It was a warning to United that it could get embarrassing if it continued this way, but the game changed when Lukaku grabbed his first goal for the English giants.
It was United’s defensive midfielder that got forward this time as Matic drove a low shot at goal from 25 yards, but Navas made a mess of a comfortable save and fumbled the ball out to Lukaku who swept in his first competitive goal for the club after netting consistently during pre-season. Zidane will be furious with goalkeeper who looked shaky when dealing with shots throughout the evening in Macedonia.
Mourinho had brought on Marcus Rashford in an effort to put pressure on the Real backline with the forward’s pace, but the England international couldn’t take his chance when it came to get United level. With just nine minutes left, Rashford raced on to Marouane Fellaini’s pass and faced up to a one-on-one with Navas, but saw his weak left-footed shot tipped around the post by the goalkeeper. It was a great chance and just needed more composure from the young striker.
The win for Real means they have scored in their last 66 games which is the highest run for any side in the top five European leagues, while Lukaku’s goal means he has scored on his debut for Everton, West Bromwich Albion and now Manchester United.