The outcome always looked likely to fall in United’s favour, following the late goal in the first leg victory at Old Trafford last week, but the fact Rooney was able to end a 10-game goal drought, dating back to the start of April, with a hat-trick inside the opening hour made this an especially productive evening.
Rooney said: “I’m obviously delighted to get the goals and, more importantly, it was a massive game for the club, to go through to the group stage after being out of it last year.
“To be honest, if I didn’t have a strong character, maybe it (the drought) would have effected me. But I know my quality and know what I give to the team.
“If the goals don’t go in I still bring a lot to my team-mates and thankfully I got chances tonight. If I’d gone three, four or five games more without a goal, maybe it would have effected me but I wasn’t worried. It’s still early days and I knew if chances came, I would take them.”
If, as van Gaal publicly insists is the case, United will allow the transfer window to close without adding a big-name goalscorer to their squad, then Rooney will need to continue in such form until further notice.
The evening might have been slightly less comfortable for the Premier League side had Brugge done something with their first meaningful attack of the tie, after five minutes.
Laurens De Bock crossed well from the left for Tom De Sutter but the Belgian’s volley was poor and easily blocked.
And, with that missed opportunity, went Brugge’s hopes of pulling off what manager Michel Preud’homme had said would be a “miracle” if they were to claw back the 3-1 first leg deficit.
When Rooney ended his long wait for a goal after 20 minutes, Preud’homme’s pre-match prediction looked even more accurate with his side thereafter needing three goals to even force extra-time.
It was a goal worth waiting for and a further illustration of the burgeoning potential in the pairing between lone striker Rooney and the young Dutchman Memphis. The latter cut in from the left into a central position before slipping through a perfect pass which the England centre-forward chased onto before lifting a textbook finish over goalkeeper Sinan Bolat.
It was the start of a period of United domination, with Memphis continuing in the form he showed in last week’s first leg in which he scored two and laid on the third, and Rooney looking far more dangerous than has been the case so far this season on the domestic front.
United were unable to add to their tally before the interval but that did not appear likely to prove problematic and that was particularly so after the hosts wasted three good opportunities to score inside the final five minutes of that first half.
Their clearest chance came when Victor Vazquez played Abdoulay Diaby clean through on goal only for the striker to be denied by an excellent save from Sergio Romero.
Within three minutes of the restart, that flurry of misses was rendered academic when Rooney followed a 10-match goal drought by ending his newest barren run inside 30 minutes. It was another superb, textbook United goal with Memphis surging through the middle and releasing Ander Herrera on the right whose cross was met by Rooney to cap the move with the most routine of finishes.
All of eight minutes on and Rooney completed his eighth hat-trick for United as the Reds ruthlessly exploited the growing holes in Brugge’s organisation. This time, Juan Mata was provider, in similar circumstances to the first goal, threading the ball through for Rooney who again won his duel with Bolat nonchalantly.
Rooney could have added a fourth, again played clear only to be denied by the keeper, and Mata curled a shot wide before a brilliant long ball from substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger deposited Herrera clear of the advanced Brugge defensive line and the midfielder advanced before beating the deflated Bolat yet again on 63 minutes.
Brugge substitute Hans Vanaken struck the underside of the crossbar and Schweinsteiger concluded yet another counter attack with a far-post chip that flew just wide.
Javier Hernandez also missed the target, heading wide from Matteo Darmian’s cross, before the Mexican was presented with a chance to atone for that error when Oscar Duarte was harshly judged to have handled. Hernandez took the resulting penalty but slipped embarrassingly in the process as he drilled his attempt into the advertising hoardings.
To make matters worse for Hernandez, the last action of the game involved an Ashley Young cross which he planted over the bar with the net gaping, but the Mexican’s profligacy was the only concern of the evening for van Gaal.
Looking ahead to today’s draw, the United boss said: “We could draw Bayern Munich or Barcelona but I don’t think they want to draw us!
“Of course every goal will give confidence to every player and also to Wayne. But I’m very happy for him, he was very generous to give the penalty to Chicharito but he slipped.
“Wayne has the best mentality you can imagine and such players with that level will always come back.”
APOEL Nicosia 1 FC Astana 1 (Astana win 2-1 on agg), Bayer Leverkusen 3 Lazio 0 (Bayer Leverkusen win 3-1 on agg) CSKA Moscow 3 Sporting CP 1 (CSKA Moscow win 4-3 on agg), Club Brugge 0 Manchester United 4 (Manchester United win 7-1 on agg) Partizan Belgrade 2 BATE Borisov 1 (BATE Borisov win on away goals after 2-2 agg draw)
Sinan Bolat 7; De fauw 6, Castelletto 5, Duarte 5, De Bock 5; Claudemir 4; Vormer 5 (Vanaken 62, 6), Vazquez 6, Bolingoli Mbombo 5 (Cools 77, 6); De Sutter 6, Diaby 5 (Dierckx 62, 6).
Romero 8; Darmian 6, Smalling 7, Blind 6, Shaw 8; Herrera 6 (Hernandez 64, 6), Carrick 7; Mata 7 (Young 62, 6), Januzaj 5 (Schweinsteiger 46, 6), Memphis 8; Rooney 9.
Antonio Lahoz (Spain) 5,