Depay double rescues Man United in 3-1 win over Bruges
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Memphis Depay announced his arrival at Manchester United by scoring a first-half double and providing a late assist for Marouane Fellaini in a 3-1 win over Bruges in the first leg of their Champions League playoff on Tuesday.
Playing his third match in United's iconic No. 7 shirt since joining from PSV Eindhoven in the offseason, the 21-year-old Netherlands winger rescued his new club from potential embarrassment after the Belgian side took a surprise 8th-minute lead through an own goal by Michael Carrick.
Depay equalized five minutes later with a low shot from narrowly inside the area for his first goal for United, then put the 20-time English league champions ahead with a curling shot from around 20 meters in the 43rd - again after cutting in from the left wing.
Bruges had defender Brandon Mechele sent off in the 80th for two bookings, before Depay whipped in a superb cross that substitute Fellaini - a Belgium international - headed in with virtually the last touch of the game. It moved United closer to the lucrative group stage of Europe's top competition.
''I want to kiss him tonight,'' United manager Louis van Gaal said. ''When you score two goals and the assist also, normally in the world you are the hero.''
United, a three-time European champion, is looking to get back into the Champions League after failing to qualify for the competition last season. Bruges showed enough at Old Trafford to suggest that United still has work to do in next week's return leg to join Europe's heavyweights in the group-stage draw, even if coach Michel Preud'homme rued Fellaini's goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
''This last goal was very bad for the confidence,'' Preud'homme said.
Bruges will cling to its away goal, gifted by Carrick when he diverted past his own goalkeeper a low, deflected free kick from Victor Vazquez.
But they will need to pay closer to attention to Depay.
Depay moved to Old Trafford this offseason for 25 million pounds (now $39 million) and with a reputation as one of the hottest prospects in Europe. He was handed the No. 7 jersey worn by the likes of George Best, Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.
United fans have been waiting to see the best of the Dutch forward and, given more time and space than he had in Premier League matches against Tottenham and Aston Villa, Depay showed just what all the fuss is about.
''He's never satisfied. I like that,'' Van Gaal said. ''You have to know what you are doing and also what you can do and then your desire to improve is higher. And that's Memphis.''
United was reeling from conceding from its first goal of the season when Depay collected a pass from Carrick, cut inside, and drove into the corner.
His second was even better. Daley Blind's slide-rule pass split Bruges' defense and found Depay, who curled home a shot into the far corner from marginally further out than his first goal.
Bruges, runner-up in the Belgian league and a European Cup finalist, faded after its strong start and Depay had chances to complete his hat trick in the second half.
Another shot from the edge of the area was beaten away, before he side-footed over from near the penalty spot after being teed up by Wayne Rooney's deft back-heel flick.
Mechele was shown the red card for a foul from behind on Javier Hernandez, just seven minutes after picking up his first booking.
United failed to create a clear opening with a man extra until Depay crossed for Fellaini to glance home.
''I don't think that we have a danger,'' Van Gaal said, looking to the return leg, ''because the players shall know that Bruges is a very difficult club to beat. They have seen it today.''