Real Madrid captured the UEFA Super Cup for a second straight year, holding off Manchester United to win 2-1 in Macedonia. The annual clash of Champions League and Europa League winners was largely in Real Madrid's control until Romelu Lukaku pulled back a goal to mark his official debut with a tally.
Casemiro and Isco scored the goals for Real Madrid on either side of halftime, leading the club to yet another trophy under Zinedine Zidane's watch.
Both sides were fresh off tours in the United States, where they played one another in the International Champions Cup on July 23 in Santa Clara, California. They played to a 1-1 draw, and United emerged victorious in penalties, with the match skipping extra time and going straight to the shootout session.
A trophy was on the line this time, and it's one Real Madrid captured again, and for a third time in four years. It beat Sevilla in a thrilling 3-2 contest last year, with Sergio Ramos's stoppage-time equalizer sending the game to extra time, where Dani Carvajal won it moments before it would have gone to penalties.
This year's match was full of storylines with Gareth Bale starting against a Manchester United side that is reportedly trying to acquire him. The match also marked the return to action for Cristiano Ronaldo after a tumultuous summer of headlines, including his potential exit from the club amid tax fraud accusations.
Both Romelu Lukaku and Bale threatened early for each side, with the former creating problems for goalkeeper Keylor Navas with his pressure, while the latter fired wide with his first chance on the other end.
Real Madrid had a golden chance to take an early lead through Casemiro, whose diving header off Toni Kroos's corner kick hit off the crossbar in the 16th minute. On the other end, United nearly struck on the counterattack, only for it to fizzle out.
Moments later, Casemiro had another opportunity, but flew his long-range chance over the bar.
Casemiro made good on his third chance of the half, latching onto Carvajal's ball over the top, toeing the offside line and sliding home the opener with the first-time volley by David De Gea in the 23rd minute.
Karim Benzema nearly made it 2-0 Real Madrid as the first half wound down, but De Gea made a nice, low save to swat away the French striker's attempt.
It was more of the same to start the second half, with Kroos stinging De Gea's palms with a left-footed blast from distance, keeping the pressure on the Manchester United goalkeeper.
The second goal eventually came, and it came through Isco in the 52nd minute. The Spanish midfielder worked a fantastic combination with Bale, who gave a slick return pass to slice through the United defense. Isco did the rest, beating De Gea to make it 2-0.
Shortly after, United nearly pulled one back. Paul Pogba's point-blank header was saved by Navas, and Lukaku fired his clear, open look on the rebound over the bar, spoiling the chance.
Real Madrid could have taken a 3-0 lead as the second half continued, with Bale ripping a right-footed blast off the underside of the crossbar. Manchester United took full advantage, with new signing Nemanja Matic forcing a save, one that yielded a rebound that Lukaku converted this time for his first official goal with the club and one that made it 2-1 in the 62nd minute.
Manchester United pressed for an equalizer and it nearly came through Marcus Rashford, who pulled a deflected 1-on-1 chance vs. Navas just wide of the far post in the 81st minute.
A couple of minutes later, Ronaldo made his return to the field for Real Madrid as the club's final substitution. He had been on vacation from the club's preseason preparations, resting while Real Madrid played in the ICC and the MLS All-Star Game.
Real Madrid returns to action on Sunday against rival Barcelona in the opening leg of the Spanish Super Cup, while Manchester United opens the Premier League season against the club's former striker Chicharito and West Ham, also on Sunday, at Old Trafford.