Man Utd head for Champions League as Memphis shines

The Dutch forward earns himself a kiss from Louis van Gaal as he proves he can become an Old Trafford legend

Memphis Depay
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/AFP)

Manchester United 3 Brugges 1

Memphis Depay was man of the match as he inspired Manchester United to a 3-1 victory over Brugges in the first leg of their Champions League play-off clash at Old Trafford, but he may not be too pleased with his reward for a virtuoso two-goal performance - a smooch from the manager.

So influential was Depay that boss Louis van Gaal later admitted he wanted "to kiss him" because of the cushion he's helped give United ahead of next week's return future in Belgium.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"I have confidence in him and tonight he scored two goals and the assist for the third goal was a fantastic cross from him, so I am very happy," said Van Gaal of the 21-year-old Depay, one of United's summer signings. "I want to kiss him tonight because when you score two goals and have an assist then normally in the world you are the hero."

United, who last season failed to qualify for Champions League for the first time in 19 years, are now in a comfortable position for the second leg but things could have turned out differently at Old Trafford after Michael Carrick gave Brugges the lead.

The midfielder put the put the ball into his own net after just eight minutes but Depay levelled for United five minutes later, when his low strike beat Sebastien Bruzzese in the visitors' goal. Depay then added a second two minutes before the break when he cut inside the Brugges defence and curled a spectacular shot into the roof of the net.

Had Brugges managed to keep United to just two goals they might have fancied their chances in the second leg but the dismissal of defender Brandon Mechele on 80 minutes left them vulnerable, and Marouane Fellaini took full advantage of the numerical superiority to head home a third goal on the stroke of full-time. "It makes a difference because 2-1 is a very difficult result," said Van Gaal of Fellaini's late goal. "We deserved much more because we created a lot of chances. There was a lot of criticism that we never shoot on goal and we do not create chances. Now, you can see we created a lot of chances."

One of those chances fell in the second-half to Depay but the 21-year-old - who arrived at Old Trafford from PSV Eindhoven in a £31m deal - failed to convert it, leaving him regretful despite of his two goals. "I must admit I'm a bit disappointed because I could have scored the last two chances and got a hat-trick," he said. "I will think about that tonight and forget about it tomorrow. But it was a good result... It's a nice feeling to score at Old Trafford my first two goals."

Despite the two goal advantage, van Gaal warned that the job is only half done and the trip to Belgium will be tough. "It is a difficult ground, and it is not a simple opponent," he said. "I have read in the papers in England that it is simple and it is a walkover, but it isn't like that."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.