Manchester United 3:1 Club Brugge

Memphis Depay scored twice and notched an assist for Marouane Fellaini during a magnificent performance to help Manchester United secure an important 3-1 first-leg victory over Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League play-off.

Although Louis van Gaal will be disappointed to have conceded a potentially disruptive away goal, via an unfortunate deflection off Michael Carrick, this night belonged to Memphis and a summer signing who looks set to enjoy the adulation of Reds supporters following a mesmeric display.

United could have taken a lead in the very first minute after Juan Mata released Adnan Januzaj on the right with a carefully lofted pass, which allowed the Belgian to run at his marker before hitting a cross that almost found the lurking Wayne Rooney inside the Brugge penalty area. Memphis then hit a deflected shot at goal to round off a slightly frantic opening five minutes at Old Trafford.

Despite the Reds’ energetic start, the visitors took a shock lead in the 8th minute and in the cruellest of circumstances. Victor Vasquez, who was praised by van Gaal before kick-off, hit a 25-yard free-kick that cannoned off Januzaj in the wall before Carrick diverted the ball past a helpless Sergio Romero. Crucially, it gives Brugge an important away goal to take home to Belgium.

United responded brilliantly and almost instantly restored parity with a moment of individual brilliance from Memphis, who expertly controlled Carrick’s powerful pass, knocked the ball over his marker, dribbled at the defence and smashed home a low finish in front of a jubilant home crowd. It was the Dutchman’s first competitive goal for the club, and it could yet be of great significance.

The former PSV Eindhoven forward saw another deflected effort bounce wide on 25 minutes and, fresh from receiving a round of applause from the fans, his resulting corner led to Rooney hitting an acrobatic volley just off target. Januzaj was then played through on goal via a sumptuous pass from Mata, though the no.11 was shepherded away from a scoring opportunity by a Brugge defender.

The travelling fans in the away end were unrelenting but they were temporarily silenced on 42 minutes after Memphis cut inside from his position on the left wing to curl a sensational effort into the far corner, before celebrating in front of the United fans who undoubtedly have a new number 7 to worship.

The second half began with Bastian Schweinsteiger replacing Carrick in midfield, but United were not affected by the change as Mata almost instantly stung the palms of the goalkeeper with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area. Star man Memphis shot wide moments later, before unleashing yet another long-range effort as he continued to torment Brugge.

There was a moment of slight controversy on the hour mark, at least from a Belgian point of view, when substitute Obbi Oulare latched onto a weak back-pass from Matteo Darmian to force Romero into a poor clearance, which was then knocked into United’s goal by Brugge. However, German referee Deniz Aytekin had pulled play back for an apparent foul on United’s Argentinian goalkeeper.

Memphis could, and perhaps, should have sealed his hat-trick soon afterwards when he blazed over the bar from close range. Javier Hernandez later replaced Januzaj on 71 minutes to make his first appearance of the season and the Mexican’s arrival was greeted by an ovation from the fans.

Brugge were reduced to 10 men after Mechele received two yellow cards in quick succession, with the second coming after a badly-timed challenge on Chicharito, and the Belgians subsequently dropped deeper into their own half as United chased a third goal. After applying pressure, the Reds eventually found a breakthrough as substitute Marouane Fellaini rose to head Memphis’ cross home in added time, wrapping up an important 3-1 victory ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg.

Here we come UCL!

Ss

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Aston Villa 0:1 Manchester United

Adnan Januzaj justified his recall to Louis van Gaal’s starting XI on Friday by scoring the only goal in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League.

The Reds are now unbeaten in 20 top-flight matches at Villa Park in a run that stretches back to September 1996. The victory also means United have tallied six points from six available following two tricky opening fixtures, five points more than the total registered at this stage of the last campaign.

The match was notably moved to Friday night due to a heavily-policed event in Birmingham on Saturday and, although many fans were late to the stadium following traffic issues, most supporters at Villa Park appeared to enjoy the novelty of the change in schedule judging by the raucous atmosphere.

Van Gaal made just one change to his starting XI by selecting Januzaj in place of Ashley Young, with the Belgian forward playing in the hole behind Wayne Rooney, while new signing Memphis Depay performed out wide on the left, a position in which he excelled for PSV Eindhoven.

United created the first chance on 15 minutes as Memphis hit an inswinging free-kick that evaded all Villa defenders and bounced towards Morgan Schneiderlin at the back post, where the French midfielder shaped his body to glance an awkward header wide of Brad Guzan’s goal.

The Villa goalkeeper was called into action again moments later as he beat Memphis to an important 50/50 challenge. The Dutchman was active throughout the first half and created another opportunity for himself on 22 minutes when he drifted inside from the left wing to exchange passes with Rooney before hitting a deflected shot wide of goal.

United dominated possession in the opening half an hour and deservedly broke the deadlock from an excellent passing move. It began with Januzaj switching the ball to the left and ended with the recalled Belgian latching onto Juan Mata’s through-ball to calmly round Micah Richards and slot a deflected finish into the bottom corner, vindicating the manager’s decision to start him at Villa Park. It was Adnan’s first competitive goal since the 4-0 win over Newcastle on 5 April 2014.

Neither manager made half-time changes but Villa played with much more urgency after the break and could have levelled when Jordan Ayew pounced on an unusually wayward pass from Mata and wastefully blasted a shot high over Romero’s goal. The Argentinian goalkeeper was then forced into his first real save on 55 minutes as he impressively grasped both hands around Gabriel Agbonlahor’s powerful header.

With Villa in the ascendancy and the home fans in fine voice, Tim Sherwood intervened and sent Rudy Gestede onto the pitch in place of former Manchester City midfielder Scott Sinclair. Van Gaal also made two changes on the hour as Ander Herrera and Bastian Schweinsteiger came on for Januzaj and Carrick, perhaps with a view to regaining control of an increasingly frantic match.

Memphis could, and perhaps should, have scored his first competitive goal for the club when he was put through by another delightfully accurate Mata pass, but the Dutch forward’s first-time shot flew just wide of Guzan’s left post before Ashley Young took his place on 82 minutes to the familiar sound of boos he receives at Villa Park, his old stomping ground.

In the end, despite Villa’s late push for an equaliser, United held on to another relatively straightforward win that will boost the players’ confidence ahead of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League play-off match against Club Brugge, an occasion that is of great importance to the club this season.

Ss