Dominant Manchester United thrash Club Brugge 4-0 to seal Champions League spot
Manchester United clinched their return to the Champions League on the back of a 4-0 thrashing of Club Brugge in the second leg of their qualifier. The Red Devils completed the formalities and secured a 7-1 win on aggregate across both legs.
A hat-trick from captain Wayne Rooney and a fine finish from substitute Ander Herrera helped United break the shackles in what was their best attacking performance of the season.
The English outfit were facing Brugge in a tricky second leg, after a late Marouane Fellaini goal had given them a 3-1 lead in the first leg. They also had the small matter of setting right their record away from home in Europe, as they had lost their previous two away games.
The match started with Manchester United looking to control possession of the ball and not giving Brugge an early sight at goal. The first 20-odd minutes of the match saw the Belgian outfit try their best to pressurise the United defenders high up the pitch in order to try and draw an error from the English team.
The Red Devils however, had different ideas, as they got the first goal of the match in the 20th minute, thanks to some neat play by the Dutch duo of Daley Blind and Memphis Depay. The centre-back's foray up the pitch saw him find enough space to spray the ball into Depay's feet on the left-flank. Memphis then cut in, moved past a couple of defenders and slid in Rooney, who calmly lifted the ball over the Brugge goalkeeper.
That goal came as a great sign of relief for the United captain, who had struggled for form upfront so far this season. Having seen manager Louis van Gaal repose all his faith in him, the English striker would have wanted to show that he could justify all that faith and the relief after the goal was palpable.
Soon after that, the away side had the opportunity to double their lead, but Memphis waited too long to get his shot away after being put through on goal, and saw his attempt deflected away. Towards the end of the first half, the Belgians had a couple of good chances. The first one saw De Sutter taking a shot, but it was saved by Sergio Romero in goal.
Another chance fell to the Belgians just after that, as Daley Blind was left badly exposed, but Diaby dilly-dallied too long and was denied by Romero, who did well to thwart the striker.
The second half saw the team from Manchester double their lead very early, as Rooney finished off a lovely passing move between Memphis, who ran at the defence and found Ander Herrera in the box. The Spaniard chose to pass the ball first time and found the Englishman, who made no mistake.
Soon after that, the United captain completed his hat-trick, as he latched on to Juan Mata's smart pass and slid the ball underneath the goalkeeper into the bottom corner. The scoreline read 3-0 to Manchester United in the 57th minute, and the away side were up 6-1 on aggregate.
Half-time substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger then slid a lovely ball through for Ander Herrera, who finished with aplomb to make the scoreline 4-0 in the 63rd minute. Herrera was then replaced by Javier Hernandez, who then could have added a couple of more goals. In between all this, Brugge had a great shot on goal, as Dierckx smashed a great shot onto the bar.
The Englishmen were awarded a penalty when Rooney's cross was handled by Duarte, but the Mexican Hernandez stepped up and slipped up while taking his penalty, putting it wide. He then also put another attempt way over the bar when set up beautifully by fellow substitute Ashley Young.
Manchester United now await the Champions League draw on Thursday night, as they will be in Pot 2, alongside teams like Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester City.