Re­lieved man­ager van Gaal hails Man Utd hat-trick hero Rooney

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY TOM WIL­LIAMS

Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal praised Wayne Rooney’s “men­tal­ity” af­ter the cap­tain’s hat­trick in a 4-0 win against Club Brugge helped his side se­cure a Cham­pi­ons League place.

United will go into the hat in Thurs­day’s group-stage draw af­ter their vic­tory in Bruges on Wed­nes­day com­pleted a 7-1 ag­gre­gate win in the com­pe­ti­tion’s play-off round.

Rooney had pre­vi­ously gone 10 club games with­out scor­ing, prompt­ing sug­ges­tions he was un­suited to the role of lone striker in Van Gaal’s sin­gle-striker sys­tem, but the Dutch­man said he never doubted that the Eng­land cap­tain would re­dis­cover the path to goal.

“I have given him al­ways the con­fi­dence that a player needs, but I think Wayne has a very strong men­tal­ity and with his level he al­ways shall come back,” Van Gaal said.

“And he proved that this evening (Wed­nes­day). But still it’s a long way for him and also for Manch­ester United it’s not so easy. Of course I’m very happy for him.”

All three of Rooney’s goals were pleas­ing on the eye, as he ap­plied as­sured one-touch fin­ishes to passes from Mem­phis De­pay, An­der Her­rera and Juan Mata.

Her­rera stroked in United’s fourth goal in the 63rd minute at Jan Brey­del Sta­dium, hav­ing been moved for­ward into a num­ber 10 role fol­low­ing the half-time in­tro­duc­tion of Bas­tian Sch­we­in­steiger.

Her­rera had strug­gled in the game’s early stages, mis­plac­ing passes and earn­ing a book­ing for an un­tidy foul on Vic­tor Vazquez, and Van Gaal ad­mit­ted af­ter­wards that he had con­tem­plated tak­ing him off.

“He started not so good. He had a lot of ball losses and also a yel­low card, so at that mo­ment I wanted to change him, but then I saw he was com­ing back,” said Van Gaal, who also saw sub­sti­tute Javier Her­nan­dez miss a late penalty.

“And af­ter that mo­ment he plays a good match on the ‘dou­ble six’ po­si­tion, but later on (at) 10 he was bet­ter. So I’m very pleased also for him.”

Van Gaal won the Cham­pi­ons League with an ex­cit­ing young Ajax team in 1995 and took Bay­ern Mu- nich to the fi­nal in 2010, but he has not led a team in the com­pe­ti­tion since 2011.

‘They have ev­ery­thing’

Asked how the tour­na­ment had changed dur­ing his ab­sence, he replied: “I can­not judge be­cause (for) three years I was not a par­tic­i­pant.

“Of course I’ve seen the matches on tele­vi­sion. I think it is the high­est podium, and it was also 10 years ago and 20 years ago.

“It is the high­est podium that you can show your­self or your team and it’s fan­tas­tic to be a par­tic­i­pant.”

Club Brugge coach Michel Preud’homme had said be­fore the game that his side re­quired a “mir­a­cle” to qual­ify and he felt that the out­come of the tie was log­i­cal.

“This team has ev­ery­thing — tech­ni­cal qual­ity, phys­i­cal qual­ity in power and en­durance, and of course they have the men­tal­ity,” said the for­mer Bel­gium goal­keeper, who was miss­ing sev­eral key play­ers through in­jury and sus­pen­sion.

“It’s a top team and they are top play­ers. They have ev­ery­thing. We are there to learn some­thing and I hope we can learn a lot from these two con­fronta­tions.”

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