Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has admitted defeat in his bid to sign Gareth Bale after the former Tottenham forward played a starring role in Real Madrid’s Uefa Super Cup victory in Skopje.
Three-time Champions League winner Bale, who endured an injury-hit campaign last season, played 74 minutes as goals from Casemiro and Isco rendered £75m striker Romelu Lukaku’s retort for United irrelevant.
Mourinho had spoken pre-match of being willing to fight to sign Bale if he was given any hint of Real, who have been linked with a £178m move for Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe, being willing to sell.
Asked whether Bale starting for Real meant his chances of capturing Bale were over, Mourinho said: “I think so. I think clearly the club want him, the manager wants him and he wants the club. For me, it’s game over because I think everyone now knows he is going to stay.”
Moments before Mourinho all but ruled out a move for the 28-year-old, Bale himself had distanced himself from a return to England and new life at Old Trafford.
“I’m just concentrating on my football. I’m not listening to anything and I don’t read anything. I get told bits and bobs but I’m enjoying my football here, playing as much as I can and winning trophies,” said Bale.
Mourinho switched his focus to the start of the Premier League campaign, which for United begins with a home clash against West Ham on Sunday. In a close season littered with jibes at former employers, the Portuguese once again took aim.
“I’m so happy to be the manager of these guys,” he added. “I told them a few days ago that during my long career I have never had a group that I liked so much. I’m really happy to be with them and I’m going to fight with them all the way. Let’s go.”
Spanish teams had won seven of the last eight European Super Cups and Real came close to breaking the deadlock inside two minutes as Marcelo’s deflected, looping cross was flicked over by Bale.
Real, who were crowned La Liga winners in May, came even closer shortly after the quarter-of-an-hour mark as Casemiro’s header from a corner crashed against United goalkeeper David de Gea’s crossbar.
But former Sao Paulo midfielder Casemiro was not to be denied. Amid claims of offside, the 25-year-old peeled off the back of £31m centre-half Victor Lindelof to meet Dani Carvajal’s clipped pass and volley beyond De Gea.
A swerving shot from Toni Kroos was repelled by De Gea, one-handed, moments after the restart, although a second goal was forthcoming in the 52nd minute as Isco nonchalantly swept home after a one-two with Bale.
United wasted a glorious chance to halve their deficit seconds later as Paul Pogba’s free header lacked enough power or direction to beat Real stopper Keylor Navas, while Lukaku blazed the rebound over with the goal gaping.
There was redemption for Lukaku, however, as he pounced to fire a loose ball past Navas after the Costa Rican had saved Nemanja Matic’s long-range effort. Real, though, were not to be denied a fourth Super Cup triumph.