Real Madrid wins UEFA Super Cup over Manchester United, because of course it does

Real Madrid became the eighth Spanish team in nine years to lift the UEFA Super Cup. (Getty)

For the eighth time in nine years, a Spanish team has won the UEFA Super Cup. This glorified exhibition between the last season’s Champions League and Europa League champions was claimed by Real Madrid for a third time in four years.

As it happens, the most successful club in continental soccer has also been European champion three times in four years. So the 2-1 win over Manchester United in Macedonia on Tuesday didn’t exactly cement this dynasty, but did add a little more polish to its shine.

Real took a two-goal lead thanks to Casemiro and Isco, before Romelu Lukaku cut it in half with his first competitive(ish) goal for United.

But if the score was close, the game itself didn’t really feel that way for much of it. Until Real, which started its preseason a week after United did and has played fewer games, tired in the last half hour or so, the Spaniards were utterly dominant.

Real had United largely pinned back early on. Although, as often, that felt like a conscious tactical choice by former Real and current United manager Jose Mourinho. Black jerseys swarmed around the United area until they finally broke through in the 24th minute.

Wave after wave of Real attacks stranded in United’s box, but then Dani Carvajal flipped a ball over the top into the path of Casemiro, who slid it behind David De Gea. Was he offside? Maybe a tad. But the goal stood anyway. And it wasn’t undeserved for being dubious.


Seven minutes after the intermission, the scintillating Isco, starting in place of Cristiano Ronaldo — who began his pre-season late — got the goal he deserved for all his energy and trickery. In a quick one-two combination with Gareth Bale at the top of the box, he freed himself up and finished cleanly.


It wasn’t stellar defending from United. But then this Ronaldo-less Real also looked like something it hasn’t resembled in years: dynamic and fast and uncatchable. The absence of the increasingly statuesque Ronaldo, who still very much merits his place and accommodations for the bundles of goals he produces, created space to slip and slice through.

United, for its part, continues to appear like an expensive but shoddy facsimile of a world-class team. Hundreds of millions have been spent since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. But none of the legendary manager’s successors have managed to forge a collective that could compete in Europe. Or, in some seasons, even reach Europe’s top competition, the Champions League.

This team looks no closer to being a real European power in spite of the pricey additions of Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof. Instead, it plays muscular and direct soccer that feels incompatible with a sport that is becoming ever faster and more intricate.

At any rate, United got its equalizer after a threatening spell. Paul Pogba’s header from a sharp Ander Herrera cross was parried into Lukaku’s path by Keylor Navas. But the big Belgian striker airmailed it. He got another chance a short while later, when a Matic bullet from just outside the box fell nicely for him as well. This time, he slotted it in coolly.

 


United created the stray chance for an equalizer but converted none of them, with Navas denying Marcus Rashford well.

And so now, with most all of the various super cups around Europe played, the club season is to finally begin. Real looks like the inevitable aging of Ronaldo won’t slow it down any so long as Isco — and Marco Asensio — are around. United, meanwhile, is still a diminished giant that has misplaced its identity.

It was only an exhibition, but the narratives for the upcoming campaign are already taking shape.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports communication lecturer at Marist College. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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