Manchester United ended their one-year Champions League hiatus in emphatic style when Wayne Rooney struck a hat-trick in a 4-0 destruction of Club Bruges that sent the three-times winners through 7-1 on aggregate on Wednesday.
As the playoffs for Europe’s elite club competition reached their climax, Bayer Leverkusen, BATE Borisov, CSKA Moscow and Astana joined United in securing the final places in Thursday’s draw for the lucrative group stage.
Astana became the first Kazakh team to qualify when they netted a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at APOEL Nicosia for a 2-1 aggregate success and Leverkusen thumped visiting 10-man Lazio 3-0 on the night to go through 3-1.
Serbian midfielder Nemanja Maksimovic grabbed the crucial goal for Astana six minutes from time as Kazakhstan became the 32nd country to be represented in the group stage. BATE of Belarus lost 2-1 at Partizan Belgrade but advanced on away goals after the tie ended 2-2, while CSKA Moscow eliminated Sporting Lisbon 4-3 on aggregate.
Rooney had not scored in almost 900 minutes before United’s trip to Belgium but brought his drought to an end when he netted his 30th Champions League goal in the 20th minute.
Running on to a neat Memphis Depay pass into the penalty area, the England international clipped the ball over onrushing goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.
It was Depay’s second assist of the tie and he also netted a double in last week’s 3-1 first-leg success. Depay was again involved in the buildup to Rooney’s second four minutes after halftime. The Netherlands forward found Ander Herrera in the penalty area, whose first-time pass across goal set up Rooney for a simple tap-in.