Wayne Rooney nets hat-trick as classy Manchester United hammer Brugge
Brugge 0 Manchester United 4 - United win 7-1 on agg
Wayne Rooney ended his 878-minute goal drought with a fine hat-trick as Manchester United destroyed Club Brugge to qualify for the Champions League group stages.
United spared Brugge no mercy as Louis van Gaal enjoyed the joint-biggest win of his time as United boss.
Rooney was the star of United's victory. The United captain will come up against more formidable defences than Brugge's this year, but the way the way he took all three of goals in this 4-0 win was impressive.
The 29-year-old latched on to Memphis Depay's through-ball to put United ahead in the 20th minute and he converted passes from Ander Herrera and Juan Mata to record his first hat-trick since September 2011.
Herrera completed the rout in the 63rd minute after Brugge's defence went to pieces and it would have been five had Javier Hernandez not missed a late spot-kick.
After a painful one-year hiatus, United will dine at Europe's top table this season and their fans will be confident of more Champions League glory nights after this impressive win.
With the fear of dropping into the Europa League running through their veins, United started nervously.
Herrera, making his first start of the season, looked the most tense player on the pitch.
The Spaniard gave the ball away frequently and entered the book for a foul on Victor Vazquez.
Only a last-ditch block from Luke Shaw stopped Tom De Sutter from giving Brugge an early lead.
Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo burst through a static defence, but backheeled to no one despite having a chance to shoot on goal.
Brugge paid for their profligacy when Rooney broke the deadlock in the 20th minute.
Just as they did in the first leg, the Brugge defence allowed Depay to cut in from the right flank. He strode past three players and slipped the ball through to Rooney, who nudged the ball past Brugge goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.
Brugge cranked up the pressure before the break. Sergio Romero saved awkwardly from De Sutter and flapped at another shot before redeeming himself on the stroke of half-time by diving at Abdoulay Diaby's feet to pinch the ball off the dallying striker.
After the break it was plain sailing for United. Van Gaal brought off Adnan Januzaj and pushed Herrera into the number 10 position.
Within four minutes of the restart, the former Athletic Bilbao man had supplied Rooney with his second.
Herrera drifted out to the right flank to pick up Depay's pass before squaring to Rooney who tapped in the easiest of finishes.
The skipper rounded off his hat-trick in the 57th minute. This time it was Mata who supplied a low pass from the right which Rooney converted.
Rooney could have scored his fourth moments later when he broke through the Brugge defence, but chipped the ball wide.
Herrera did not pass on the chance to add to the scoresheet just before the hour, though. The midfielder raced on to Bastian Schweinsteiger's through-ball and stroked the ball past Bolat to seal United's place in Thursday's group stage draw.
United could have added a fifth when Rooney's cross struck Duarte's hand and the referee pointed to the spot. The skipper selflessly handed the ball to Hernandez, but he slipped and put the spot-kick wide.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"What drought? Wayne Rooney, hat-trick hero. #mufc." - Manchester United's official account @manutd light of Rooney's run without a goal.
Wayne Rooney: Answered his critics with a well-taken hat-trick. The 29-year-old did not fall into the trap of dropping deep as he has done a lot in the first four matches. He played right at the top of the attack and showed great pace and vision to get in behind the Brugge defence. He took his three goals well and could have had four or five. Rooney is now just 16 goals behind Sir Bobby Charlton in United's all-time scoring charts.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Rooney's first goal. The skipper showed great awareness to latch on to Memphis Depay's through-ball and stroke the ball past the advancing Brugge goalkeeper. From then on the England captain grew in confidence and looked as though he would score every chance that came his way.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Van Gaal kept faith with Rooney as his central striker and the move paid off as he found the net three times. Van Gaal's decision to play Adnan Januzaj instead of Marouane Fellaini gave United more fluidity but the young Belgian did not impress. It was only when Van Gaal removed Januzaj and moved Ander Herrera up to the number 10 role that United found their rhythm and the Spaniard is a serious contender to start there against Swansea on Sunday. Michel Preud'homme said his Club Brugge team needed a miracle to progress and he was right. There was nothing he could do to stop United on Wednesday night.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Javier Hernandez's late misses. The Mexican had the perfect chance to boost his morale with a couple of late goals, but he missed from the penalty spot and also placed a late shot over the bar when faced with an open goal.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Swansea v Manchester United (Premier League, Sunday 30 August)