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Majestic Memphis double downs Brugge but Belgians not yet out

Like Wayne Rooney almost 11 years ago, Memphis Depay announced himself as a Manchester United player on his Champions League debut for his new club. The differences between the two was that the Dutchman bagged a brace while the Englishman hit a hat-trick while that was the latter’s first ever Red Devils game, but both helped their side to a win.

Louis van Gaal kept the same starting line-up from his side’s Friday night 1-0 away win over Aston Villa in the Premier League for this first leg play-off against Club Brugge, perhaps to increase the team cohesion.

Despite the decision to leave Bastian Schweinsteiger out of the XI for a third consecutive game, it seemed to pay off as United ran out 3-1 winners at Old Trafford thanks to Memphis’ double and sub Marouane Fellaini’s late header.

However, in the eighth minute it was the highly-unfancied visitors that went ahead, ahead after successive deflections from Adnan Januzaj and then Michael Carrick for a potentially crucial away goal.

It was Van Gaal’s predicted dangerman Victor Vazquez, formerly on the books of Barcelona while the Dutchman was boss, who caused the chaos from a relatively tame-looking free-kick.

The early shock certainly sparked the Red Devils into action, and Memphis in particular as the Netherlands forward grabbed his first goal in a United shirt five minutes later following some neat tricky and smart finish.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Qualifying - Play-off - Manchester United v Club Brugge - Old Trafford

Memphis, who looked frustrated in his first two competitive games for his new club in the league, continued to be lively, and had a couple more attempts as well as almost providing his captain Rooney a goal from a corner. However, the England centurion couldn’t get enough on it.

With 10 minutes before half-time, the Dutchman had a terrific opportunity to double his tally as he went through on goal at an angle but unselfishly, and perhaps foolishly, tried and failed to find Januzaj in the middle instead.

That did not deter him in the slightest, though, as moments later Memphis had a decent shot on target from long range, that the keeper could only parry away.

There was some unfortunate news just before the break, as Belgium legend Timmy Simons, his nation’s second-highest capped player ever, had to be substituted off with a suspected hamstring injury.

It turned out to be a huge hindrance for the away team just minutes later, and this time Memphis bettered his first goal with an absolute scorcher from the edge of the box to put United in front.

The hosts started brightly in the second half too, after Schweinsteiger came on for own goal-scorer Carrick, and Juan Mata had an early chance but struck straight at the keeper.

Predictably, Memphis soon had another chance too and from range again but it was just tipped away.

All United’s hard work to come back from a goal behind nearly went to waste on the hour mark after a mix up between Morgan Schneiderlin and keeper Sergio Romero, with the keeper seemingly hesitating to clear the back-pass. Luckily for the Argentine he was just able to clear the ball before sub striker Mamadou Oulare could get to it.

Moments later, Memphis could have completed his hat-trick, though, after a brilliant team move and then touch by Rooney, but the Dutchman somehow shot over the bar. He also gave home fans a glimpse from the past with a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque free-kick in the final quarter of the game, however was just wide.

One man that won’t be available for Brugge in the second leg is Brandon Mechele, after he fowled sub Javier Hernandez which resulted in him being sent off after a second yellow with just over 10 minutes to go.

Chris Smalling had a chance to all-but take the tie out of Brugge’s hands as he headed straight to the keeper’s hands at the death. But it didn’t matter as right before the referee was about to blow his whistle, Memphis whipped in a fantastic cross to meet the head of Belgium star Fellaini.

United won the home leg 3-1, far better than what could’ve been a 2-1 scoreline, but how crucial will that early away goal by Brugge prove to be?

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