By Ollie Cranham-Young
- United win 4-0 on the night, 7-1 on aggregate
- Rooney off the mark for the season with a hat-trick
- Ander Herrera making first start of the season, was also on the score sheet
Venue: Jan Breydel Stadium Attendance: 28,733
Manchester United secured their place in this afternoons Champions League group stage draw following a 4-0 thrashing of qualifying opponents Club Brugge.
Wayne Rooney will be hoping he has silenced his critics by scoring a clinical hat-trick against the Belgian side. Whose deficit was further increased to 7-1 on aggregate after a goal later on from midfielder Ander Herrera to completely guarantee United’s official return to the UEFA Champions League following a year’s absence from the competition.
Prior to the game, United knew that a 0-0 score line was enough to see them past the Qualifier after a 3-1 victory over Brugge the previous Tuesday but United were determined to take nothing for granted. Many suspected that because Brugge had to come out and try and score, United would catch them on the counter-attack, and that’s exactly what they did as Rooney provided an emphatic response to his critics who questioned what his goal tally would be, come the end of the season.
Never had the words “A Must-Win Tie” been more important and the importance of the fixture showed through United’s play as they knocked out a Brugge side to “competitively” feature in the Champions League again, a competition which had been synonymous with the club since the 1950’s and a certain Sir Matt Busby was at the helm.
Louis Van Gaal made two changes to his team by recalling Michael Carrick in place of Bastian Schweinsteiger and starting Herrera for the first time this season. United dominated possession for much of the game, especially in the opening 25 minutes but it was Brugge who created the first chance when Luke Shaw blocked Tom De Sutter’s low volley at the back post. Had this gone in, it could have been a much more entertaining and nervy game.
This excited the Brugge fans who had again been singing “You’ll never walk alone” before kick-off. This chance didn’t seem to give Brugge the confidence to go on and get a goal as none other than Wayne Rooney, broke the deadlock on 22 minutes after Memphis had dribbled down the left wing and produced an exquisite pass which found him perfectly: He calmly chipped the shot over the goalkeeper from eight yards to score his first goal of the season and to silence the press.
Following this, Brugge needed a miracle and only a 4-1 victory to them would see them progress to the next round of the competition. De Sutter made his second chance of the game, but was denied by Argentinian Sergio Romero on 40 minutes and seconds later Romero had to drag the ball away from the feet of Brugge player Bolingoli as he produced an outstanding piece of goalkeeping.
Just before the interval, Memphis had two shots deflected wide to end an exciting first half in Belgium. When the game resumed after the break, many people assumed that Herrera would be that man taken off at half time as he was already on a yellow card but instead Van Gaal replaced Januzaj with Schweinsteiger. Maybe this was to add a bit more experience to a side that you would think would just “ride it out” for the next 45 minutes.
As United are known to do the unexpected, they did the exact opposite. Not long after the restart, United capitalised on a poor pass from Brugge as Ander Herrera slipped a fantastic pass for Rooney to get on the end of, which he did, perfectly. It was the simplest of touches from Rooney and he had already bagged two goals before the clock struck 50 minutes.
Several minutes later, it began getting embarrassing for Brugge as the skipper found his hat trick after latching on to an intricate pass from Mata. Rooney just calmly slotted the ball underneath the goalkeeper and he was on 36 goals in European Competitions. A club record that can only be bettered by Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who bagged 38. After the third goal, United started running riot as Brugge just gave up which allowed Herrera to get his first goal of the campaign after an excellent through ball from Champions League winner Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Spaniard was then subbed off, as we expected, and he received a standing ovation from the red corner of the ground as Chicharito returned to Champions League football with United. Following this substitution, both teams failed to score as Tuur Dierckx struck a powerful volley only to be stopped by the crossbar and Chicharito missed a penalty due to a fatal slip on the turf.
It could be said that the penalty (handball offence) was harshly awarded, but others may argue that United already should have had two, but the referee was being sympathetic of the losing side. Chicharito missed an open net in the last minute and failed to open his account in a game where he should have had two goals to his name. Despite all this though, United expectedly made it through to Thursday’s group stage draw in Monaco after a beneficial night in Brugge.
Not only did this game send United through to the Champions League Group Stages, but it did wonders for United’s confidence as they had been recently questioned on their attacking options.
No doubt the whole squad and the manager feel confident going into Sunday afternoon’s clash with Swansea City who this year will be looking to secure Europa League football after harshly losing out last year but after 2 excellent display’s against Brugge, we don’t have to worry about featuring in that competition.
Manchester United: Romero, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Herrera (Hernandez 64), Mata (Young 62), Januzaj (Schweinsteiger 45), Memphis, Rooney
Our Man Of The Match: Shaw
This result returns United to Europe’s top table Read More Here