MANCHESTER: Marouane struck three minutes into stoppage time to edge Manchester United 3-1 clear of Belgium’s Club Brugge on the return of Champions League football to Old Trafford.
Manager Louis Van Gaal had been looking for captain Wayne Rooney to provide the goals in the playoff first leg but instead it was Fellaini and two-goal Memphis Depay who stepped up to the plate after Michael Carrick had put Brugge ahead with an own goal.
The midfielder, who had put a simple pass out of play in the opening minute, fell to the floor attempting to clear Fernando Vazquez’s free-kick, but instead guided the ball past a diving Sergio Romero.
Five minutes later, Carrick was back in the good books. The midfielder lifted a ball into the box to find Depay, who juggled the ball away from his marker before unleashing a low drive past Sebastien Bruzzese.
Rooney led the hunt for a second. The England captain had a shot cleared off the line by Vazquez and then glanced a header just wide. But it was not all United. They left open holes at the back, which Brugge exploited on the break.
The Belgians could not find a way past Romero, though, and United made it 2-1 just before the break. Depay cut inside the left flank on to his right foot and whipped a wicked shot past Bruzzese before performing a jig in the corner.
Van Gaal brought Bastian Schweinsteiger on for Carrick at half-time but Brugge still threatened on the counter. Romero dallied on the ball after a poor backpass from Matteo Darmian, but the referee stopped play because Mamadou Oulare had stood on the goalkeeper’s ankle as he attempted to capitalise.
Mechele, who had been cautioned earlier for a foul on Depay, put his team’s chances of a late equaliser in jeopardy when he slid in on substitute Javier Hernandez to receive his second booking.
Van Gaal brought Marouane Fellaini on for Rooney with six minutes to go and the move paid off as the Belgian headed home Depay’s cross to make it 3-1.