Manchester United make their return to the Champions League proper after a season away with a trip to The Netherlands to face Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven.
Despite the shock of conceding an early goal, the Red Devils hit back well to earn a convincing 7-1 aggregate success over Club Brugge in their two-legged qualifier. Wayne Rooney was the man largely responsible for ensuring the tie did not become a nervy affair as hit hat-trick in the away match capped an authoritative performance, but only after Memphis Depay had been the star of the show at Old Trafford.
This represents a significant evening for the 21-year-old, who was arguably the deciding factor in ending PSV’s seven-year wait to reclaim their domestic title. His impact so far in England has been mixed as he takes time to adapt, but the potential and quality he possesses are clear to see and he will be relishing the chance to make a major contribution in front of the supporters who still hold him in such high regard.
As for United as a whole, they will come into this in a buoyant mood having got the better of arch rivals Liverpool at the weekend. Ironically, it was the half-time withdrawal of Depay that played a large role in turning what had been a soporific game in their favour, with Ashley Young coming on to inject a little tempo to their attacks. The icing on the cake came late on as new £36m signing Anthony Martial showed great feet and the composure to match to mark his debut with a fine goal. He is now ready to be unleashed on PSV.
Louis van Gaal will be quietly confident of making the knockout stages, with PSV the seeded club in Group B. CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg also lie in wait for a side that will surely to keen to make up for their non-presence last season. The only slight concern is in defence, where Daley Blind has, for the most part, done well alongside Chris Smalling, who is becoming an increasingly commanding figure at the back.
PSV are very much a side back on the up in spite of the loss of Depay. A club with such a strong European pedigree, the 1988 winners have hardly had anything to shout about on the continental stage in recent years, often struggling to go beyond the group stage of the Europa League. Now they are competitive again, and coming into this having triumphed 6-0 away from home at the weekend. Among their standout players are striker Luuk De Jong and experienced Mexico international Andres Guardado.
Rooney is a major doubt for United due to the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Liverpool match, so van Gaal must decide whether to keep Marouane Fellaini as the furthest player forward here, or give Martial his first start. Illness is still sidelining Phil Jones.
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