Jose Mourinho returned from the Uefa Super Cup feeling chipper despite admitting it is "game over" in Manchester United's pursuit of Gareth Bale and his team losing to Real Madrid.
The annual meeting of the Champions League and Europa League winners on Tuesday night proved an entertaining encounter, with United impressing at times and being outclassed on many others.
Romelu Lukaku's late goal gave United hope after Casemiro and Isco put Real Madrid into what ultimately proved an unassailable lead, with Zinedine Zidane's men triumphing 2-1 and wrapping up back-to-back Super Cups.
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Mourinho was annoyed that Casemiro was not called offside for the first-half opener, but the United boss found it hard to argue that his former club did not deserve the lead at that point.
"There was a goal that was offside," he said. "If not, we would be talking about 0-0 at half-time and a different game.
"But the domination is the consequence of quality, of a team that is superior, that has great quality players in midfield that control the game, that hold the ball, that keep possession.
"They touch the ball well, they pass it very well. It is a consequence of that."
Mourinho added: "The Champions League winner obviously has a different potential than the Europa League winner, so for us to come here and to do the positive things we did, I think we have to go with a good feeling and we have to start the Premier League on Sunday with a positive feeling and great experience.
"And going to the Champions League in September, who knows? If we get Real Madrid again, if we don't we could get another of the top teams in Europe - one of the champions of the best leagues - and I think this Super Cup was a really good experience for us."
The Skopje clash certainly gave Mourinho food for thought, even if defensive absentees undoubtedly hurt United.
Mourinho is still hoping to make one more summer addition and admitted in the build-up that he would "fight" for Bale if he was not involved in the Super Cup.
Real Madrid head coach Zidane's pre-match coyness did little to quash the chatter, but naming Bale in the starting line-up did.
The 28-year-old produced an impressive performance from the outset, hitting the bar and setting up Isco for the second goal.
"Clearly the club wants him, the manager wants him and he wants the club, so for me it's game over - even before it started,'' Mourinho told BT Sport.
"It's game over clearly because everybody knows he is going to stay."
Bale was the subject of the most attention before and after the match given the ongoing speculation - talk he says has not thrown him at all.
"I am not listening to anything, I don't read anything, obviously I get told bits and bobs," the Wales international said
"I am enjoying my football here, I am playing as much as I can and I'm winning trophies so that's all I am concentrating on.
"I haven't had any conversations (with Madrid), I am just concentrating on my football. I'm trying to get my fitness up as much as I can after pretty much not playing regularly for eight or nine months.
"It is great to keep adding to the (medal) collection. It was a very difficult game but we got the job done and we've got another trophy and we move on."