Manchester United ended their one-year Champions League hiatus in emphatic style when captain Wayne Rooney struck a hat-trick in a 4-0 destruction of Club Brugge on 26 August.
Striker Rooney, who had not scored in almost 900 minutes before United's trip to Belgium, netted his first goal of the season and his 30th in the Champions League in the 20th minute. Club manager Louis van Gaal said Rooney had been given the confidence to pick up his game after failing to score since a Premier League game against Aston Villa in April, a run of 10 matches.
"Wayne has a very strong mentality and with his level he always shall come back, and that he proved this evening. But still, it's a long way for him also, also for Manchester United, it's not so easy. But of course I'm very happy for him," van Gaal told a news conference after the match in Bruges.
Rooney doubled the lead four minutes after halftime following a flowing move and grabbed his third just before the hour courtesy of a cute pass from Juan Mata. Ander Herrera added a fourth goal as United, 3-1 up after the first leg, eased through to the group stage of Europe's premier club competition 7-1 on aggregate.
"We need more victories like this. For the fourth time, a clean sheet, and now we created a lot of chances because Brugge must come, of course, and they were very open for us. So it was relatively easy, but you have to do it, it is not so easy as everybody thinks, but I was happy," van Gaal said.
After failing to qualify for last season's competition for the first time since the 1995-96 season, United are through for the 20th time, equalling the record shared by holders Barcelona, 11-times winners Real Madrid and 2004 champions Porto.