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Wayne Rooney lost as Louis Van Gaal finds Fellaini solution for Manchester United

By Steven Beacom

Manchester United needed a goal. They were leading 2-1 against 10-man Brugge and struggling to make the breakthrough for a tension-easing third. The trip to Belgium next week for the second leg was starting to look a little concerning.

Brugge, with a fired up crowd behind them, would fancy overturning a slender deficit knowing that with an away goal at Old Trafford, a 1-0 home win would deliver a spectacular success.

Louis van Gaal looked at his flagging players and decided to make a change. He took his captain off. It's the trend now. If Jose Mourinho can do it, so can the Dutchman. With just six minutes left Wayne Rooney was hooked and on came Marouane Fellaini.

It wasn't too long ago that such a substitution would have been met with howls of derision from the United faithful.

Not this time. For some inside the stadium there was a sense of relief.

Rooney wasn't as awful as he was against Aston Villa in United's last Premier League game on Friday, but he wasn't exactly awesome either and as for offering a goal threat on the night his score would have been distinctly average.

There was one magical touch in the second half which should have led to a hat-trick for the impressive Memphis Depay, but not much else of creative note from the England skipper.

Rooney worked tirelessly, as he always does, but playing in a lone front role he does tend to become a little lost.

Thankfully for Van Gaal he found a solution to the Rooney problem in Fellaini.

Once a laughing stock at Manchester United, he's a serious option for the Red Devils now.

Van Gaal made the right call bringing one ex-Everton star on for another.

It may not have been pretty watching United lump high balls into the box in the hope that Fellaini would get on the end of one but it sure proved effective.

In injury time the big guy showed his worth nodding home that vital goal number three from Depay's inviting delivery.

It was a goal that changed the mood inside Old Trafford from frustration to elation. It also changed the mood of the tie. Brugge, with their players looking shattered at the final whistle, won't come back from this. United can now go to one of Europe's finest cities and win there as well.

Then they can relish the draw for the group stages and being in the hat with Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid again after their unwanted season on the sidelines.

Van Gaal came up with the answers last night. Now he must address the question surrounding Rooney and how to get the best out of him for greater tests ahead.

He certainly got full value from summer signing Memphis Depay, who produced two stunning first half strikes after a Michael Carrick own goal had silenced the home supporters giving the underdogs a shock lead.

Depay wears the number seven at United. It is a giant shirt to fill given that some of the club's greatest players had the privilege before him.

Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and our own George Best at times. He's made a good start.

But then many thought the same about Angel Di Maria!

Belfast Telegraph

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