Manchester United produced a performance of pace, verve and intensity - yes, they really did! - to destroy Club Brugge and move into tomorrow’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. And they were, once again, inspired by Bruno Fernandes, who scored the first goal from the penalty spot, with the others coming from Odion Ighalo, Scott McTominay and Fred, who got two.
United jumped on their opponents from the very first minute, pounding Simon Mignolet’s goal with shots. They were also fortunate not to concede in that period, when Mats Rits shot over, but otherwise it was one-way traffic and United took a deserved lead on 22 minutes when Simon Deli punched away Daniel James’ goalbound shot. He was sent-off, a decision confirmed after a long and incomprehensible VAR check, before Fernandes dispatched the penalty with customary elan.
United soon increased their advantage, Ighalo notching his first for the club after more fine work from Fernandes before the returning McTominay despatched a glorious finish past Mignolet form outside the box.
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The second half was a more sedate affair, but as Brugge tired Fred helped himself to two goals, tapping home on 82 minutes and punching home in injury-time to seal a fine win. For the first time in a long time, United look like a team.
United's board should be annoyed with themselves, not congratulating themselves. It's terrifying to think that, had Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford not got injured, United probably wouldn't have signed Bruno Fernandes. This should be a source of shame for the board, because they've needed him all season, never mind at the start of January, and the lesson is that they need more players of his quality; he is not enough on his own.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) Confident, clever, skilful and decisive, he was all over the pitch dropping mines. A class act, who has elevated the entire team.
Manchester United: Romero 6, Wan-Bissaka 6, Bailly 6, Maguire 7, Shaw 8, McTominay 7, Fred 7, Fernandes 8, Mata 8, Ighalo 7, James 7. Subs: Chong 6, Lingard 6, Greenwood 6.
Club Brugge: Mignolet 8, Mata 5, Mechele 6, Deli 4, Ricca 5, Kossounoou 5, Rits 5, Vanaken 6, De Cuyper 5, Tau 5, Okereke 5. Subs: Diatta 5, De Ketelaere 6, Mitrovic 6.
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