Wayne Rooney ended his goal drought in sublime fashion against Club Brugge on Wednesday, scoring a hat-trick as Manchester United ran out 4-0 winners in the second leg of their Champions League play-off.
The England captain had gone 10 United games without netting, but showed no signs of any lack of confidence in this comfortable play-off second-leg victory over an injury-plagued Brugge.
Having triumphed 3-1 at Old Trafford last week, United had little trouble in securing an emphatic aggregate success and a place in Thursday’s group stage draw in Monaco.
Rooney’s first arrived after 20 minutes following excellent work from Memphis Depay and he doubled his tally with an easy tap-in shortly after half-time.
Juan Mata teed him up to net his third just before the hour, as Rooney completed his first European hat-trick since his debut against Fenerbahce back in 2004.
Ander Herrera, making his first start of the season, added a fourth as United ran riot in the second period – Javier Hernandez also missed a penalty – and Louis van Gaal’s men can now look forward to a return to Europe’s premier club competition following their absence in 2014-15.
After a low-key opening saw Rooney’s long wait for a goal extended to 878 minutes, the forward got himself on the scoresheet in fine style.
Depay cut in from the left-hand side and slipped in a delicate pass for the England striker, who lifted a deft finish over debutant goalkeeper Sinan Bolat and into the net.
Rooney returned the favour nine minutes later with a chipped ball to Depay, but his first touch let him down and Bolat was able to gather.
Depay continued to threaten and broke clear on goal, only to see his eventual shot blocked by Oscar Duarte.
In the 41st minute, Brugge’s Tom De Sutter stung the palms of Sergio Romero, who did brilliantly to steal the ball from the feet of Abdoulay Diaby soon afterwards.
Brugge were left to further rue that miss four minutes after the restart as Herrera teed up Rooney for a simple tap-in.
And Rooney completed his treble in the 57th minute with a calm finish through Bolat’s legs following Mata’s cute pass.
Bolat saved well to deny Rooney a fourth a minute later, but the respite was brief as substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger played a sublime ball to Herrera, who coolly slotted home.
Hans Vanaken then went close for salvaging a measure of pride for Brugge but his thunderous volley crashed into the crossbar.
It could have been worse for the home side had substitute Hernandez not sent his spot-kick wide when slipping at the point of contact after Duarte had handled Rooney’s cross, but it mattered little as United advanced.