MEMPHIS Depay scored a stunning brace as Manchester United secured a 3-1 win over Club Brugge in their Champions League play-off first leg.
The Dutch forward struck twice in the first half after Michael Carrick’s own goal had given the visitors a shock lead, and Marouane Fellaini added a controversial third deep in stoppage time.
This is what Manchester United paid £31m for. Van Gaal described Memphis as “one of the greatest talents of his age” following his arrival from PSV Eindhoven this summer, and the winger showed his class with two breath-taking finishes and an assist on a scintillating European debut.
It was the kind of thrilling, almost arrogant, performance that has rarely been seen at Old Trafford since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure six years ago – and it was exactly what they have been crying out for. Over the course of the 90 minutes, Memphis managed more shots on target and as many goals as United mustered between them in their underwhelming 1-0 Premier League wins over Tottenham and Aston Villa.
But the statistics only tell part of the story. For the first goal, Memphis used a combination of chest, head and feet as he chipped the ball over his marker and drilled a stunning low finish into the bottom corner, and his second was even better. Daley Blind spotted Memphis’ clever run off the left flank, and he unleashed an unstoppable long-range effort with that lethal right foot.
His late cross for Fellaini’s third goal was inch-perfect, too. The only criticism of his performance is that he could have had more, but it feels as though Memphis is a superstar in the making.
Memphis’ goals were a joy to watch, but Fellaini’s was undoubtedly the most important. This was the Belgian’s first appearance since his sending off against Hull on the final day of last season, and it could prove to be a priceless contribution.
“That’s a huge difference, going to Brugge with a two-goal advantage as opposed to the one having conceded an away goal,” said Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier, and United’s jubilant celebrations spoke of their relief.
Indeed, the Belgian side would have been more than happy to escape Old Trafford with a 2-1 reverse having had one effort on goal to United’s 19. Fellaini only had eight touches of the ball following his 84th-minute introduction, but the goal is a timely reminder of the threat he poses in the opposition box.
Brugge were fortunate to only be trailing by one goal when stoppage time arrived given United’s overwhelming dominance, but Fellaini’s third came after the three allotted minutes of added time and they will feel justifiably feel hard done by.
“When the Brugge players look at this, they’ll be livid,” said Le Tissier. “As the ball is played out to Memphis on the wing, the referee raises his hand as the three extra minutes are up. He puts his whistle to his mouth, sees that Memphis is going cross it and he takes the whistle away from his mouth and Fellaini nods it in.
“I would be steaming if I were in their position, I really would. But the decision has been made and it could be massive.”
There were occasional touches of class from Rooney, notably a deft backheel from which Memphis should have scored in the second half, but this was another unconvincing centre-forward performance from United’s faultering captain.
Rooney’s goalless streak now stretches to nine games for United, and while Memphis was busy peppering the Brugge goal with shots, the England man is still yet to muster a single effort on target this season. As against Tottenham and Aston Villa, Rooney struggled to make an impact on the game, and in the Sky Sports studio Le Tissier admitted it “wasn’t his night”.
— Sky Sports