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Rooney fires Man Utd into Champions League group stages

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Rooney has his prayers for a goal answered in Brugge
Rooney has his prayers for a goal answered in Brugge

Crisis over for Wayne Rooney?

On a night when his first three goals of the season eased Manchester United into the group stages of the Champions League with a 4-0 win against Club Brugge and a comfortable 7-1 aggregate success, Rooney was the man at stealing the headlines all over again.

Rooney's incompetence has been one of the more eye catching aspects of United's season so far, with their 29-year-old skipper castigated with increasing venom after a series of displays that cast a huge doubt over his ability to lead the line for boss Louis van Gaal.

With that in mind, this three-goal display could not have been better timed, yet this need to be the start of the Rooney revival and not a blip on the radar of a player who has struggled to find his best form in 2015.

However, the caveat to this Rooney-inspired triumph has to be that Brugge were, politely, a dreadfully weak hurdle for United to lead over as they returned to Europe's elite competition.

Unable to contend with the brilliance of Memphis Depay, helpless to halt a fine fourth goal from Ander Herrera - after a magical pass from Bastian Schweinsteiger, United outclassed a rival that were out of their depth against Van Gaal's side.

That should always have been the case as the side that finished second in the Belgian league last season when up against a United side that has been bolstered by some lavish spending in the transfer market this season.

Yet this was always a night when United needed to guard against an upset that would have been catastrophic for their season and once Rooney opened the scoring with the help of Depay after 20 minutes (below), the outcome of the tie was never in doubt.

United could even afford to miss a late penalty from Javier Hernandez, with the reaction of Van Gaal and his assistant Ryan Giggs on the bench speaking louder than any words.

A trip to face Swansea is next on the agenda for United this Sunday and with the Champions League now etched into their diaries for this season, Van Gaal will be hoping the big name transfer target his club have been chasing all summer will now arrive before next Tuesday's transfer deadline.

At least this display confirmed that the blunted United performances of the opening few weeks of the season can be replaced by something much more sparkling when everything clicks into place.

At last Rooney can sleep well knowing that his goal drought is over. He may even be tempted to snuggle up under the sheets with a Champions League hat-trick ball by his side.