Manchester United’s new signing Memphis Depay struck two fine goals and made a third as they took a step towards a return to the Champions League group stage with a 3-1 victory over Club Bruges on Tuesday.
On a night of close finishes in all five first-leg playoff games, the 21-year-old Dutch winger opened his United account with a memorable performance in the famous number seven shirt previously worn by George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. Signed from PSV Eindhoven for a reported 25 million pounds ($39.15 million) in May, Memphis scored two thrilling goals in the first half after Bruges had taken an unexpected early lead and he set up a late third for substitute Marouane Fellaini.
By then Bruges were down to 10 men, central defender Brandon Mechele having been sent off following two yellow cards as United, three-time European Cup winners but out of Europe last season, pushed for the goals to secure a bigger advantage. “That goal makes a big difference because at 2-1 it is a difficult result for us,” said United manager Louis Van Gaal. “We deserved much more because we created a lot of chances. It is what I am always saying, you have to be effective.
“I am happy because of the last goal. We have practised that before when we need Fellaini.” Lazio also found it tough as they squeezed a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen with a 77th minute solo strike by substitute Keita, Sporting Lisbon beat CSKA Moscow 2-1, after the Russians missed a penalty, and BATE Borisov of Belarus beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0 after the Serbians were reduced to 10 men. Earlier, a 14th minute header from striker Baurzhan Dzholchiyev enabled Astana to become the first Kazakh club to win a UEFA playoff match as they beat Apoel Nicosia 1-0.
But it was Memphis who made the biggest impact on the night after United midfielder Michael Carrick had deflected a Victor Vazquez free-kick into his own net after eight minutes. United responded within five minutes when Memphis collected a pass from Carrick on his chest, juggled the ball into space and evaded two challengers before netting a low right-foot shot.
Half an hour later, the Dutchman made it 2-1 when he ran on to a through pass from Daley Blind, turned on to his right foot and curled a perfectly-judged shot inside the far post. United replaced Carrick with Germany’s World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger at halftime and pushed for a third goal which finally arrived in the fourth minute of added time.
Memphis was the creator as he picked out Belgium midfielder Fellaini with his cross for a classic and decisive header. Sporting also enjoyed a late goal to give them victory over CSKA when Islam Slimani exchanged passes with Andre Carrillo before scoring from the edge of the penalty area.
BATE secured their win after a second half of intense pressure when Mikhail Gordeichuk headed in a corner from Igor Stasevich to break Partizan’s stubborn resistance. There are five more first-leg playoff ties scheduled for Wednesday with return matches to be played next week. The winners go into the groups stage of the competition.