By Andrew Embling
- Memphis double gives United advantage for second leg
- Brugge took the lead through Carrick own goal
Venue: Old Trafford Attendance: 75,312
Manchester United put one foot in the Champions League proper as they defeated Club Brugge at Old Trafford.
Memphis was the star of the show as his two goals helped United to a 3-1 win in the first leg of their qualifier against a resolute Belgian side. Louis Van Gaal chose to keep the same line up that beat Aston Villa on Friday night and he was rewarded as United came out of the blocks quickly.
United almost had the perfect start as Mata’s ball over the top found Januzaj, but his fizzing cross into the box just evaded the outstretched boot of Wayne Rooney. It was a statement of intent from the home side, who surged forward in the early stages as they found open space in the final third.
Brugge for their part were trying to press United high and took a shock lead as Carrick turned Vasquez’s low free kick past Romero with less than eight minutes gone. The boost of an away goal gave Brugge something to hang on to, but they couldn’t do anything as United levelled with 13 minutes on the clock.
Carrick found Memphis with a fine pass, but Brugge had no answer to the Dutchman’s brilliance as he lifted it over one defender, ghosted into the box and drilled a low shot past Bruzzese. It was some way to announce himself at the Theatre of Dreams as he secured his first goal in United colours.
It was end to end stuff as Cools spurned a chance for Brugge at one end before Rooney saw his acrobatic effort turned off the line by Vasquez, then headed wide from the resulting corner. Brugge were looking dangerous on the break, particularly down United’s left as they exploited the space behind Shaw when United lost possession. But it was United who should have taken the lead as Memphis found himself closing down on the Brugge goal, only to try and find Januzaj when the better option would have been to go for goal himself.
Memphis did have a pop at goal shortly after, this time from 25 yards, as he forced Bruzzese to push the ball away. It was beginning to get a little frustrating as the clock ticked towards half time, but with a couple of minutes to the break Blind threaded a ball through to Memphis, who took one touch before bending a rasping shot into the far corner from the edge of the area to give United the lead.
Van Gaal brought on Schweinsteiger for the second half to replace Carrick and United started the half brightly, Mata firing straight at Bruzzese inside the first minute of the half. Memphis was causing no end of trouble for the visitors, another long range effort by the Dutchman forcing Bruzzese to push wide. United were bossing the game, looking assured in possession.
One sweeping move saw Rooney swivel and turn off target from the edge of the area as the home side pushed for another goal to give them some daylight in the tie. But United almost got caught sleeping as Romero dallied and was fortunate Oulare didn’t embarrass him in front of his own goal. Memphis should have marked his night with a hat trick as Shaw showed electric pace down the right before finding Rooney.
The United skipper produced a deft touch to flick it into Memphis’s path, but the Dutchman fired over with just the keeper to beat. Memphis fired a free kick wide from 35 yards whilst Schweinsteiger saw his effort well blocked by Duarte. Mechele saw red for a second yellow card with ten minutes to go after he caught substitute Hernandez with a late challenge, the extra man giving United a chance to inflict more damage on their opponents.
And the home side felt they should have had a penalty after de Bock handled in the box, but the referee ruled that Fellaini, on as a late replacement for Rooney, had handled first. Fellaini was in the midst of the action again as he headed just wide before Smalling saw his header go straight at Bruzzese in the final minute of injury time.
But with the whistle about to blow Memphis whipped in a cross from the right and Fellaini couldn’t miss from six yards. That goal gave United the breathing space they needed as they wrapped up a 3-1 win to give them a great chance to progress.
Manchester United: Romero, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick (Schweinsteiger 45), Schneiderlin, Mata, Januzaj (Hernandez 72), Memphis, Rooney (Fellaini 84) Subs Not Used: Johnstone, Valencia, Herrera, Young
Our Man Of The Match: Memphis