Photo: Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney celebrates his hattrick against Club Brugge. United won 4-0 to advance 7-1 on aggregate to the group stages (Getty Images)
Manchester United marched into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, brushing off a under par Club Brugge team with impressive ruthlessness, 4-0 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate. Wayne Rooney walked home with the match ball after silencing his critics by scoring his first hattrick for United in four years. Rooney has sustained harsh criticisms in recent games but his all-round performance was a timely reminder of just how good he can be.
Louis van Gaal had exercised the patience of Job with his captain and got his just reward midway the first quarter as Rooney broke his 10-game goal drought in the 20th minute when Memphis Depay cut inside with some sleek moves and slotted a great pass into the striker's path. Rooney has struggled to hit the back of the net so far this season, but dinked the ball over goalkeeper Sinan Bolat to put United 1-0 up.
United rested a few players and Louis Van Gaal answered the fans cry, with Ander Herrera given a start and the Spanish midfielder didn't disappoint. He was booked inside 13 minutes for a rash challenge on Victor Vazquez. However, Herrera showed the world how good he can be in that number 10 role when Adnan Januzaj was substituted and he was given the role. Herrera sat alongside Michael Carrick rather than Morgan Schneiderlin or Bastian Schweinsteiger in the first half and he set up Rooney's second goal in the second half and then rounding off the rout with Manchester United's fourth of the night.
LVG risked leaving the centre of United’s defence exposed. Schneiderlin’s protection of that defence has been integral to United’s solidity this season – just as his absence from Southampton is a key factor in that club’s defensive problems this term.
Memphis Depay almost added to his goal tally against the Belgians -- having netted twice in the 3-1 first leg win -- as he latched on to a pass from Rooney, but was flagged offside before clattering into Bolat. Just after the half hour mark, the Dutchman then found himself through on goal but was closed down before the Clint Eastwood like sharp shooter could make his mind up whether to pass or shoot.
A depleted Club Brugge side showed some character when Tom De Sutter connected well with a shot, but Sergio Romero parried to keep Brugge off the scoresheet and the goalkeeper was forced into action later on in the contest just before half-time when Abdoulay Diaby broke the offside trap and rounded the Argentine, only for Romero to claw the ball back and deny him before he could slot home from close range. Manchester United has so far played 450 minutes in all competitions and has not conceded a goal from any opposition.
Rooney almost had a fourth when racing clear, but Bolat got a touch to redirect his effort round the post for a corner. The fourth wasn't long in coming though as the decorated German Bastian Schweinsteiger threaded a wonderful ball through to Herrera, who took his time and slotted the ball home with relative ease.
Brugge almost got a consolation as Hans Vanaken hammered a shot off the underside of the crossbar, but in the final 10 minutes Oscar Duarte conceded a penalty after a handball. Javier Hernandez slipped as he was taking the spot kick, however, and slid his effort wide as United ended the game with a comfortable 7-1 aggregate scoreline.