Memphis Depay scored twice and notched an assist for Marouane Fellaini during a magnificent performance to help Manchester United secure an important 3-1 first leg victory over Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League play-off.
Although Louis van Gaal will be disappointed to have conceded a potentially disruptive away goal, via an unfortunate deflection off Michael Carrick, this night belonged to Memphis and a summer signing who looks set to enjoy the adulation of the Reds supporters following a mesmeric display.
United could have taken a lead in the very first minute after Juan Mata released Adnan Januzaj on the right with a carefully lofted pass, which allowed the Belgian to run at his marker before hitting a cross that almost found the lurking Wayne Rooney inside the Brugge penalty area. Memphis Depay then hit a deflected shot at goal to round off a slightly frantic opening five minutes at Old Trafford.
Despite the Reds’ energetic start, the visitors took a shock lead in the 8th minute and in the cruellest of circumstances. Victor Vasquez, who was praised by Louis van Gaal before kick-off, hit a 25-yard free-kick that cannoned off Adnan Januzaj in the wall before Michael Carrick diverted the ball past a helpless Sergio Romero. Crucially, it gives Brugge an important away goal to take home to Belgium.
United responded brilliantly and almost instantly restored parity with a moment of individual brilliance from Memphis, who expertly controlled Carrick’s powerful pass, knocked the ball over his marker, dribbled at the defence and smashed home a low finish in front of a jubilant home crowd. It was the Dutchman’s first competitive goal for the club, and it could yet be of great significance.
The former PSV Eindhoven forward saw another deflected effort bounce wide on 25 minutes and, fresh from receiving a round of applause from the fans, his resulting corner led to Rooney hitting an acrobatic volley just off target. Januzaj was then played through on goal via a sumptuous pass from Mata, though the no.11 was shepherded away from a scoring opportunity by a Brugge defender.
The travelling fans in the away end were unrelenting in support of Brugge – as well as chanting “Liverpool, Liverpool, Liverpool” at one point – but they were temporarily silenced on 42 minutes after Memphis cut inside from his position on the left wing to curl a sensational effort into the far corner, before celebrating in front of a United fanbase that undoubtedly has a new no.7 to worship.