Manchester United will be among the names in the UEFA Champions League group-stage draw after sealing a 4-0 win on the night and a 7-1 victory on aggregate against Club Brugge.
Wayne Rooney answered his doubters in the press by scoring a clinical hat-trick in Belgium before Ander Herrera notched his first goal of the season with another neat finish. The play-off result means Louis van Gaal, the players and supporters can now look forward to returning to Europe’s top table and a competition that has been synonymous with the club since the reign of Sir Matt Busby.
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. Both men utilised their passing abilities in the opening exchanges as the Reds controlled possession on a pitch that had been heavily rained upon in Bruges, where the weather was almost biblical leading up to the match.
Despite United’s positive start at the Jan Breydel Stadium, named after a local butcher who led a 13th-century uprising, it was the hosts who created the first chance when Luke Shaw blocked Tom De Sutter’s low volley at the back post, an effort that was more than enough to cheer a home crowd that had provocatively sang along to Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off.
The Reds quickly silenced the home supporters, though, by breaking the deadlock on 20 minutes as Memphis Depay, United’s star in the first leg, produced another moment of individual brilliance by dribbling in from the left wing and cutting a neat pass inside for Rooney, who calmly chipped a neat shot over the goalkeeper to score his first goal of the season from around eight-yards.
Rooney’s opener meant Brugge could only progress in normal time with a 4-1 victory and, although their hopes were bleak, the home side showed tremendous spirit and almost levelled when De Sutter forced a smart stop from Sergio Romero on 40 minutes, before the Argentinian goalkeeper brilliantly clawed the ball away from the feet of Boli Bolingoli when he was played in moments later. Memphis also had two efforts deflected wide to cap an intriguing first half in Belgium.