Real Madrid defended their UEFA Super Cup title with a 2-1 victory over 2016-17 Europa League winners Manchester United on Tuesday night at the Phillip II Arena in Skopje, Macedonia.
It marks the fourth time that Los Blancos have claimed the UEFA Super Cup and the third since 2014.
A first half goal from Casemiro and a second half strike from Isco proved enough to earn Real yet another piece of hardware to be displayed in the Santiago Bernabeu trophy cabinet.
Manager Zinedine Zidane fielded the exact same starting XI that was on the pitch last spring for the Champions League final against Juventus, with the lone exception being Gareth Bale in for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar, recently back from vacation, was named to the bench.
There were of course many familiar names in Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho’s starting XI, including Spain internationals David De Gea in goal and midfielder Ander Herrera.
Bale was the first to issue a warning in just the second minute, as a looping cross from Marcelo fell for the Welshman between a pair of United defenders, but his side-volley flew high and wide of De Gea’s goal.
Later on it was Casemiro in with a chance off a corner kick, and had his header been another inch lower, he would have surely beaten De Gea. Instead the Brazilian saw his effort bang off the crossbar and back into play.
Casemiro would get his redemption midway through the first half when the United defence went to sleep and he was able to get on the end of a chip from Dani Carvajal to hand Real a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, United were flailing away and having difficulty getting out of their own half. And when they were able to find space on Real’s side of the pitch, their ball movement was slow, their passes were imprecise and their decision making was poor.
The only time Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas was called into action during the first 45 minutes was a Romelu Lukaku header right before half-time that the Costa Rican comfortably saved.
Real remained on the front foot to start the second stanza, with Toni Kroos forcing De Gea into a diving save. There was nothing though that the former Atletico Madrid stopper could do to prevent Isco from doubling the lead 2-0 after dancing through the United defence and playing a slick one-two combination with Bale that ended with Isco sweeping in a right-footer.
A glimmer of hope opened up for United just moments after the Isco goal, but an astounding miss from Lukaku after Navas had parried a Paul Pogba header kept Real’s two-goal advantage intact.
Bale then should have made it three on the hour mark after a fine pass from Casemiro, but he powered his shot off the bar. The former Tottenham man would rue his misfortune, as minutes later Lukaku took advantage of a rebound after Navas had blocked Nemanja Matic’s shot from outside the area to make it just a 2-1 affair.
In less than a minute Real went from what looked like a 3-0 lead to a slim 2-1 advantage. The change from Mourinho to bring in Marouane Fellaini for Herrera in the 56th minute was paying dividends. The physicality of the big Belgian was troubling the Real defence, and he helped United get back into match.
Curiously, Zidane still did not make any changes as the match approached the final quarter-hour. Finally, the French boss went to his bench, but it wasn’t for Ronaldo; rather Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez entered for Isco and Bale, respectively.
United continued to creep closer and Marcus Rashford had the equaliser on his right boot after a superb pass from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Navas did enough to deflect the ball wide of the far post.
Zidane then made his third and most anticipated change, bringing in Ronaldo in the 83rd minute for Karim Benzema to try to close things out. A fantastic solo effort from Lucas Vazquez looked to put the nail in United’s coffin, but De Gea said otherwise with a reaction save on an Asensio shot.
Nevertheless, Real were able to see things out to enjoy a trophy-winning start to their campaign. Next up for Real is a date with Barcelona on Sunday in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
2.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Isco (Asensio, min. 74); Bale (Lucas Vazquez, min. 74), Benzema (Ronaldo, min. 83).
1.- Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Lindelof, Smalling, Darmian; Matic, Ander Herrera (Fellaini, min. 56), Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Lingard (Rashford, min. 46), Lukaku.
Goals: 1-0, min. 24: Casemiro; 2-0, min. 52: Isco; 2-1, min. 62: Lukaku.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).
Yellow Cards: Lingard (Min. 41) for Manchester United, Carvajal (Min. 84), Ramos (Min. 86) for Real Madrid.
Red cards: None.
Stadium: Phillip II Arena.
Real Madrid: Navas (7), Carvajal (6), Ramos (6), Varane (7), Marcelo (7), Kroos (7), Casemiro (8), Modric (7), Isco (9), Benzema (8), Bale (7).
Subs used: Ronaldo (n/a), Vasquez (6), Asensio (6),
Manchester United: De Gea (8), Valencia (7), Lindelof (6), Smalling (7), Darmian (6), Matic (7), Herrera (6), Pogba (6), Mkhitaryan (7), Lingard (6), Lukaku (7).
Subs used: Fellaini (7), Rashford (8).
Man of the Match – Isco