Memphis Depay turned on the style and Marouane Fellaini struck in stoppage time as Manchester United beat Club Brugge.3-1 on their return to the UEFA Champions League.
Depay, signed from PSV in June, opened his account for United in impressive fashion on Tuesday with a first-half double as Louis van Gaal’s side moved a step closer to claiming a place in the group stage.
The 21-year-old forward’s heroics came after Brugge had taken a surprise early lead against the Premier League side when Michael Carrick deflected a Victor Vazquez free-kick into his own net.
United were ahead by the break, though, as Depay quickly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful with two clinical finishes.
Another two chances fell the way of the Netherlands international but a Champions League hat-trick eluded him, while Obbi Oulare nearly embarrassed Sergio Romero at the other end.
Substitute Fellaini gave the home side a two-goal cushion with a header in time added on after Brandon Mechele’s late red card for a second bookable offence, to make United favourites to progress heading into the second leg of the play-off tie next Wednesday.
United, unchanged following their win at Aston Villa on Friday, made a positive start with the backing of an expectant Old Trafford crowd and Wayne Rooney was inches away from converting Adnan Januzaj’s low cross after only 46 seconds.
The home side continued to threaten but found themselves behind after eight minutes as Carrick diverted Vazquez’s free-kick into his own net – the first goal conceded by Van Gaal’s side this season.
Brugge could not hold on to their advantage, though, as Carrick – who was replaced by Schweinsteiger at half-time – made amends with a superb assist for Depay’s equaliser after 13 minutes.
His whipped pass was superbly brought down by Depay on the edge of the penalty area and, after beating three defenders, the Netherlands international rifled his shot past Sebastien Bruzzese.
Chances continued to come for the hosts and two minutes before the break Depay doubled his tally, cutting in from the left and curling a precise effort beyond Bruzzese.
Not satisfied with two goals, Depay quickly went in search of his hat-trick after the restart and was denied a third by a fine Bruzzese save after a marauding run.
With an hour played Romero – barely tested in the United goal – nearly gifted Brugge an equaliser as he hesitated to clear Matteo Darmian’s back pass, substitute Oulare nearly robbing the Argentine.
It was a rare opportunity for the visitors, and United quickly broke down the other end and Depay inexplicably missed a glorious chance from 12 yards after a sumptuous backheel from Rooney.
A late Depay free-kick flew inches wide before Mechele was shown a second yellow card late on and Chris Smalling headed straight at Bruzzese.in stoppage time.
Finally United got their third goal, though, as Fellaini rose at the back post to head home a deep cross from the left, giving Van Gaal’s side breathing space heading into the second leg.
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