After a modest start in their league campaign, which has seen them score only one goal from open play in 270 minutes of Premier League football, Manchester United went a long way to silencing their critics with a dazzling display in Belgium on Wednesday night.
Louis van Gaal had warned against complacency following their comfortable 3-1 first leg win and it certainly appears as if the players were listening.
In what could’ve been a tricky test, United secured a comfortable 4-0 victory, thanks in no small part to a Wayne Rooney hat-trick. These were the England man’s first goals since April 4 and the weight leaving his broad shoulders was almost tangible.
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The whole team were solid but the slick cohesion from the front-men was the real difference. Okay, Club Brugge are not the best side in the world but they’re organised and committed, as you would expect any half-decent European side to be. And they showed that they can be dangerous by grabbing an away goal when the sides met in the first leg eight days before.
But they couldn’t live with Rooney and co, the striker a constant menace, making darting runs throughout the 90 minutes and being serviced with slick passes, particularly from Memphis Depay who impressed yet again. He laid it on a plate for Rooney’s first, making a mug of two defenders before dropping his shoulder, dummying a shot then setting it up for the striker with a beautifully weighted pass.
Van Gaal decided to add a bit of experience into the mix at half-time, using the relative comfort of the situation to give Bastian Schweinsteiger another run-out as he continues his progress towards being fully match-fit. His impact was immediate, starting the move that led to United’s second as he passed to Herrera, leaving him the simple job of crossing to Rooney for a tap-in.
And the German was again the catalyst, finding Mata out on the wing who breezed inside and played in Rooney to smash it through the keeper’s legs to secure his hat-trick.
Schweinsteiger then notched a direct assist as his perfectly timed through ball found the busy Herrera in acres of space and the Spaniard coolly finished low to the keeper’s right to round off a classy team performance.
Rooney will of course get all the headlines, and deservedly so. But what will please the Old Trafford faithful the most was the power and speed of the attacking unit as a whole. Both Depay and Herrera never stopped and Mata looked like he could be getting back to his best.
Januzaj, who was hooked off at half-time, showed glimpses of the talent that is clearly there. However, it was when the German international captain came on for the second half that United really started motoring. His presence on the park allowed Depay, Mata and Herrera to run riot in an 18-minute blitz.
If they can transfer this form to the Premier League, we might see Rooney thrive in his advanced role. And if Schweinsteiger can get match-fit, the two power-houses may well prove to be a match made in heaven.
Manchester United fans: Are we going to start seeing the best of Wayne Rooney in the Premier League now? Give us YOUR opinion in the comment box below!