Louis van Gaal’s side swaggered into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, brushing off a poor Club Brugge side with impressive ruthlessness, 4-0 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate. The star performances came from Memphis Depay, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger and, of course, Wayne Rooney, who claimed a hat-trick.
Rooney has had sustained criticism in recent games but his all-round play on Wednesday evening was a timely reminder of just how good he can be. Far tougher tests will await United in Europe this season, but for now they are back where they feel they belong, and in some style.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sergio Romero, 6: Had very little to do throughout but was sharp when called into action.
DF Matteo Darmian, 7: Already emerging as Manchester United’s Mister Consistency. Got forward well, closed down all attacking threats down his flank and was only really noticeable when he made his single mistake of the match, a loose infield pass in the first half that could have allowed the home side to break. A truly fine signing.
DF Daley Blind, 7: Passed from the back in composed fashion and helped his team to dominate possession. Had one worrying moment when he sliced the ball near his goal but was otherwise solid. Was typically progressive with his passing from the back, looking for the smart early ball when needed.
DF Chris Smalling, 7: Another assured performance from the club’s best centre-back. Never looked threatened.
DF Luke Shaw, 8: Continued his excellent form. showing impressive acceleration to get back when Brugge broke against his team and made a vital block when United led by a single goal. Also showed his encouraging tendency to cut in on goal, almost getting on the end of a one-two with Wayne Rooney in the first half.
MF Michael Carrick, 7: Started somewhat slowly but found his rhythm as the first half went on, ending the game as a vital element in United’s possession game. A good, understated showing.
MF Ander Herrera, 7: Began the game poorly with a couple of badly misplaced passes and rash tackles, one of which resulted in a yellow card; he also miscued a shot high and wide. Looked ill-at-ease in the first half but when the formation shifted to a midfield three with him as a No. 10, he was a player transformed. In 20 minutes after the break he created one goal and scored another, looking every bit the footballer who was so exciting at the end of last season.
MF Juan Mata, 7: Always enterprising, his quick and subtle passing did not find the outlets they deserved in the first half, but he was central to United’s overwhelming attacks in the second half and was very good in combination with Herrera.
MF Adnan Januzaj, 6: Not his night. Made intelligent runs but the ball too often seemed to run away from him. Ineffective and when he made way at half-time it was no surprise.
MF Memphis Depay, 8: Proved again that he is much more than a goalscorer, with his clever run infield and pass providing the opening goal for Wayne Rooney, a strike that settled the visitors’ nerves. Was integral to United’s (and Rooney’s) second with a fine through-ball to Herrera, and outclassed the opposition with his trickery throughout.
FW Wayne Rooney, 9 A hat-trick of nonchalant finishes for the England forward in a performance where he could have had at least four goals — one a penalty that was handed instead to Javier Hernandez, and the other a chip which was very well swatted aside. He looked in his rhythm from the off, with his touch and link-up play notably improved. Though Brugge were greatly inferior opposition he was precisely as ruthless as a top striker should be.
MF Bastian Schweinsteiger, 8 (for Januzaj, 45): The German midfielder came on and again set the tone, pushing the play higher up the pitch and freeing Herrera to attack as he does best, releasing him with a superb through-ball — the pass of the match — for the game’s final goal.
MF Ashley Young, 6 (for Mata, 62): Came on and worked hard down his flank — did not create a great deal but closed his side down defensively.
FW Javier Hernandez, 5 (for Herrera, 64): Had a very poor night. Slipped over when given a penalty with the score at 4-0, sending the spot kick wide, and then skied the ball over an open goal from about six yards out. He was lacking match sharpness and confidence, and it showed in the most unfortunate fashion.
– ESPN FC
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