Manchester United’s dreams of a first Uefa Super Cup in over 25 years vanished as Real Madrid swept them away in Skopje.
Both managers named strong sides but it was Real that dominated for much of the match, the 2-1 score line flattering the Europa League champions.
Casemiro scored in the first half, although some fans believed from an offside position, before Isco put Real two up after a smart one-two with former Tottenham forward Gareth Bale.
Romelu Lukaku pulled one back with his first competitive goal for the club but in the end it was merely a consolation.
Here are five things we learned from United’s defeat in the Macedonian capital.
1. United still well off the pace of Europe’s elite
It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but playing Real Madrid presents slightly more of a challenge than a rainy evening away at Stoke (incidentally, a fixture United haven’t won since 2013).
They may have been playing what is essentially a glorified friendly, but they put out almost their strongest side, only missing Ronaldo, and the gulf between them and United was clear to see.
The Manc team have spent almost £150 million this summer in the hopes of cracking this season’s top four, and they can take comfort knowing their performance, especially in the second half, would have been enough to best most teams in their league.
Unfortunately, the best Europe has to offer is still a cut above anything in Manchester right now.
2. Fellaini should be head of social media
The big Belgian actually had a pretty good game last night.
Just as Real Madrid threatened to run away with the game, turning it from a match of champions into the sort of friendly you play against an unknown Vietnamese all-star team, Marouane Fellaini came on and helped United come back into the game.
Thank you to everyone who posted & sent me this pic.twitter.com/O7tmOSYR38
— Marouane Fellaini (@Fellaini) August 8, 2017
However, forget everything you just read, because his night will be forever remembered by two pictures: one where it looks like he’s been punched by Mike Tyson and then decided to spontaneously melt, and the other where he was caught doing his best impression of John McEnroe after earlier clashing heads with Sergio Ramos.
After the game, he took to Twitter to thank fans for their many jokes at his expense.
Anyone who can take defeat in a cup final and thousands of people making memes out of him so well should be put in charge of United’s social media accounts immediately.
3. New signings need more time before strong judgements
Mourinho started all three of his new signings and they had an admittedly mixed night. Lukaku blazed a shot over from inside the six-yard box, but scored when given basically the same chance less than ten minutes later.
By most accounts, Nemanja Matic had a better game, giving United some much-needed composure and strength in the midfield area and even inadvertently setting his teammate up with a long-range drive. At the same time, he was also beaten for the second goal, being left for dead as Isco finessed the ball past David De Gea.
Victor Lindelof looked the shakiest of the three, both in and out of possession, and clearly needs time before settling into the defence.
Nevertheless, all three were playing in a new team against the best club in the world, so some pragmatism is needed before anyone is labelled a complete waste of money, time or oxygen.
4. Three at the back isn’t for everyone
After a relatively poor start last season, Conte mixed things up at Chelsea and started playing three at the back.
He’d found success with this at Juventus, and then again when he managed the Italian national team. Sure enough, the Blues won the league by seven points.
Guardiola too used a back three when at Barcelona and Bayern, and Nice and Sevilla often switched to one as well.
Mourinho experimented with the idea in some of the friendlies this summer, but last night all three defenders struggled with the new system in its first real test against a top team.
When the Premier League returns at the weekend, and points rather pride will be up for grabs, Mourinho would do himself a lot of good by returning to basics.
5. Bale’s not leaving Madrid
We knew this last month, we knew this yesterday and finally we have the closest thing to confirmation you can get in a transfer window as crazy as this one – Bale’s not coming to United.
He started the game, set up Madrid’s second goal and smashed a shot against the bar. Then he revealed in a post-match interview that he hasn’t been told he can leave and stated that he was happy in the Spanish capital.
Even Mourinho admitted it was “game over”. He might harbour hopes of eventually signing the Welsh winger, but he’s not kidding himself this summer, and neither should you.
And just for good measure…
6. Ronaldo only came on in the 83rd minute, so does that mean…
Stop it, Ronaldo’s not coming either.