A Wayne Rooney hat-trick helped Manchester United end their one year hiatus from the Champions League and qualify for the group stage after a comfortable 4-0 victory over Club Brugge in Belgium.
Ending a spell of 10 games without a goal, Rooney netted after 20 minutes and opened the flood gates with a quick fire double after half-time to put the game firmly to bed.
Ander Herrera got his first of the season for the Red Devils just after the hour mark before Javier Hernandez sent a penalty wide of the goal, as United secured a 7-1 aggregate victory and broke their hosts’ 10 game unbeaten home record in European competition.
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Club Brugge made five changes to the squad that lost 3-1 in last Tuesday’s first leg, including a change between the sticks, as Sinan Bolat replaced Sebastien Bruzzese. In defence Jean-Charles Castelletto came in for the suspended Brandon Mechele whilst Timmy Simons was replaced by Claudemir after picking up a knock in the first leg. Tom De Sutter and Davy De Fauw were also brought into the squad.
For the visitors, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick came in for Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger in their only two changes from the side that drew a blank against Newcastle in last Saturday’s Premier League encounter. David de Gea is still yet to feature for Louis van Gaal’s side this campaign amidst rumours of a transfer to Real Madrid.
It was the hosts that had the first chance of the game, as Trabzonspor bound forward Tom De Sutter failed to sort out his feet, seeing a miscued volley blocked by Luke Shaw and fly out of play for a corner.
Rooney then silenced his critics, with his first goal in 10, after some great work by Memphis. Cutting in from the left, he committed the defenders and played a defence splitting pass that was delicately dinked over the on-rushing goalkeeper for the Englishman’s 30th Champions League goal.
United looked deadly on the counter and their lead could have been doubled by Memphis, when some strong play from Shaw set him away from the defence. Ignoring the square ball to Rooney, the Dutch international waited too longer and eventually saw his effort saved by Bolat.
Michel Preud'homme's side piled on the pressure before half time, with De Sutter bringing a straightforward save out of Sergio Romero. Daley Blind then nearly put through his own net, flicking a deep cross just wide of his own goal.
The resulting corner saw Brugge go close again before Abdoulay Diaby rounded the United backline but failed to find the open goal, as some great keeping from Romero prevented the Belgium side from registering.
The second half was a different story and a goal from Rooney just after half-time ended Preud'homme's hopes of a fight back. Winning the ball in midfield, Van Gaal’s side worked the ball to Herrera who had space behind the defence to roll the ball across the box to the United captain who cushioned the ball in to the net.
His hat-trick was complete soon after, as Herrera found Juan Mata who played a reverse pass into the feet of Rooney. With his defender caught the wrong side, Rooney played the ball through the legs of the sprawling keeper, to net his eighth hat-trick for the Reds.
It should have been four for the England captain soon after, as Mata played another brilliant pass to play him in behind the defence. In similar style to his first, Rooney dinked the ball over Bolat, who got a hand to the effort, sending it over the bar.
It was soon four for United though as Bastian Schweinsteiger sent Herrera clear from inside his own half, with the Spaniard simply bursting into the box and casually passing the ball past the keeper, to put extra gloss on the scoreline.
Brugge’s best chance of the game then came from nothing as Hans Vanaken latched onto a bouncing pass and beat Romero with a thunderous volleyed effort just to see it strike the underside of the bar and bounce away from danger.
United were given a chance late on to equal their biggest ever Champions League win, when a Rooney cross bounced off the head of Oscar Duarte onto his arm, forcing the referee to point to the spot.
Javier Hernandez stepped up to take the penalty, but slipped at the crucial moment and put his effort horribly wide to end a woeful evening for the Mexican who missed another easy chance in the closing moments.
Champions League group stage
The final whistle saw the curtain come down on Club Brugge’s Champions League adventure, making it ten years since they last competed in the group stage. With eight out injured, Preud'homme will not have wanted to see Tuur Dierckx take a knock late on, as the Belgium side turn their immediate attention to stuttering domestic form, where they sit sixth in the league after five games. They will also now have Europa League football to contend with.
For United, there journey back to the top has gathered serious fuel this evening, securing their position back among Europe’s elite. With their defence looking solid, Rooney’s resurgence will no doubt bring a smile to the face of Louis van Gaal, although the form of Hernandez may cause him further headaches.
They now turn their attention first to the Champions League draw today and then to their Premier League fixture against Swansea on Sunday, as they look to continue their unbeaten start to the season.