The charity meeting, which benefited Real's Foundation academies in Africa, pitted famous names from the pasts of both clubs against one another, and the game began in entertaining fashion as Fernando Morientes put the hosts into the lead after seven minutes, only for Lee Sharpe to fire the Reds back on level terms within two minutes.
Luis Figo powered Real back ahead almost immediately, and only a superb save from Edwin van der Sar prevented Zinedine Zidane from extending the hosts' lead. Substitute stopper Raimond van der Gouw emulated his compatriot's heroics immediately after his second-half introduction, making a fine one-on-one save from Emilio Butragueno.
That preceded a pivotal period, as Teddy Sheringham's penalty was parried out by Pedro Contreras, who also blocked the striker's follow-up. Two minutes on, the hosts moved into a 3-1 lead as Fernando Redondo wound his way through a gaping hole in the United defence before prodding a finish past the exposed van der Gouw.
Sheringham did atone for his miss with 10 minutes remaining as the former England striker reached Andy Cole's measured through-ball and clipped a fine finish over Contreras. It wasn't enough, however, to halt Real from edging a hugely enjoyable spectacle.
United: Van der Sar (Van der Gouw 62), Martin (Thomas 77), Johnsen, Dublin, Irwin; Blomqvist (Robson 77), Yorke, Fortune, Sharpe (Blackmore 61); Cole, Sheringham.