By Derrick Kiplagat
United Skipper Wayne Rooney had barely come close to scoring since his last strike in a United shirt, 10 games ago back in April, against Aston Villa, but the 29- year-old silenced his doubters with his first Champions League hat-trick since his Old Trafford debut against Fenerbahce in September 2004.
If not for a careless finish after being released by Juan Mata in the second half, Rooney would have scored four. He also generously passed up a penalty in the closing stages, handing it to striker Javier Hernández, who slipped and shot wide.
Rooney’s goal scoring ability had come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, but he has ended that debate while at the same time booking United’s place in today’s draw for the Champion’s League group stages. Van Gaal can now focus on the next stage of his rebuilding job at United by restoring the club’s reputation as European heavyweights.
United cruised to the group stages with a 7-1 goal aggregate against the Belgian team, Club Brugge.
Wayne Rooney’s first goal came in the 20th minute, after Dutch starlet Memphis Depay cut-in from the left wing, beating his markers to find Rooney with a well threaded through ball, Rooney making no mistakes looped it over the goalkeeper for United’s first.
Van Gaal brought in Bastian Schweinsteigger in place of Adnan Januzaj and the German made an immediate impact. Herrera pushed ahead into Januzaj’s No10 position but it was Schweinsteiger who turned play maker, rolling the ball along an inside right channel to Rooney. The chance fizzled out but Herrera was about to feel the pleasing sensation of providing the captain’s second. Depay, again, was pivotal. His pass found Herrera along the right and a squared ball to Rooney was slotted beyond Brugge goal keeper Bolat.
Rooney completed his eighth hat-trick for the club from Mata’s pass. He might have had a fourth within seconds but Bolat’s touch on the ball sent it wide. Herrera offered a reminder of the finishing ability he displayed on numerous occasions last season when making it 4-0 after Bastian threaded a sublime through ball, though Javier Hernández, who replaced Herrera immediately after the fourth goal, slipped and sent a penalty wide.