Memphis Depay opened his account with two goals as Manchester United overcame conceding an early away goal to ensure they take a narrow lead into the second leg of the Champions League play-off tie against Club Brugge. Michael Carrick's eighth minute own goal was followed by two goals from Depay before Marouane Felliani's stoppage time header, with Brugge down to ten men after Brandon Mechele's dismissal, gave the three-time winners a two-goal lead to take to Belgium.
Amid another uncertain United display, the headlines belong to Depay who registered his first goals since his £25m summer move from PSV Eindhoven. The Netherlands international's maiden appearance for the club in Europe was reminiscent of Wayne Rooney's European bow for the club 11 years previous, which saw him net a hat-trick against Fenerbahce.
Though Depay fell short of a treble, he led United to an edgy victory ahead of the second leg on 26 August which threatens to be another nervy affair, despite Fellaini crucially netting a third in added-on time. Brugge caused the 20-time English league champions plenty of problems until the late dismissal of Mechele for a second yellow card and their dreams of returning to Europe's premier club competition 10 years on from their last appearance are very much still alive.
Following two unconvincing Premier League wins at the start of the season, United were looking to put one foot in the group phase after a year away from Europe's top tier club competition in a game manager Louis van Gaal had described as his biggest during 13 months at the club. Single goal wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa had done little to convince critics that the Dutch coach had begun to effectively blend his new signings together and therefore an enterprising performance was required to silence the doubters.
Their opposition Brugge arrived for their 12th European match in England, and first against United, seeking their maiden win, having lost nine of their previous eleven trips. Without an appearance in the group stage of the competition since 2005, the side managed by Michel Preud'homme - a former Belgium international goalkeeper - were heavily un-fancied despite staging a comeback to beat Panathinaikos in the last round but were hoping to pray on the nerves of their illustrious opposition.
And the 13-time Belgium league champions would take full advantage of such uncertainty in the opening minutes and grab a crucial away goal. Victor Vazquez's low-hit free-kick from the left channel of the United half scuttled through and was sliced inadvertently by Carrick past a wrong-footed Sergio Romero.
The lead would last barely five minutes however. Depay collected Carrick's pass, flicked it over the onrushing Dion Cools and was allowed time to set himself and fire past Sebastien Bruzzese for his first United goal since his summer move from PSV.
Brugge were refusing to go down wondering and as United continued to fail to heed the warning from the away side's earlier set piece success they were lucky not to fall behind for a second time when Cools miss-timed a cushioned volley, allowing Romero to gather fortuitously. At the other end amid a now frenetically paced game, an increasingly isolated Rooney had two chances to complete United's turnaround, first having his overhead-kick hacked off the line by Vazquez before flicking wide a near-post header.
Tuur Dierckx caused Romero more problems with a probing run and cross-shot which evaded the Argentine stopper but from a subsequent United break Van Gaal's side should have hit the front. After being put clean through by Rooney, Depay showed none of the assurance he has produce to level the scores and opted to pass to Adnan Januzaj rather than shoot himself, and the chance was gone.
Two minutes before the break United though Depay rediscovered his finishing touch with another immaculate finish. The Netherlands international was again afford too much time on the ball and upon turning onto his right foot he smashed the ball beyond Bruzzese from 20 yards.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was introduced at the break in an attempt to exert some authority into United's performance but Brugge were unperturbed and Romero was lucky to win a foul after a coming together with Boli Bolingoli with the goal otherwise unguarded. Amid the pressure there were glimpses of United's class and they should of had a third but Depay spooned over the bar after a brilliant flick from Rooney teed him up.
As clear-cut openings at both ends began to dry up, partly down to United's control of the contest, Brugge's frustration spilled over as Mechele was sent off for after being shown a second yellow card for a foul on substitute Javier Hernandez. Brugge weathered a late United storm in an attempt to give themselves a chance come the second leg, but the late intervention from Fellaini, on his first appearance of the season, gives them an uphill task in eight days time.