United will take a two-goal lead to Belgium next week after landing a 3-1 win over Brugge in their Champions League play-off first leg at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils made an encouraging start when Adnan Januzai sent a dangerous ball across the box but United suffered a surprising setback in the 8th minute when Michael Carrick's deflected block from a Brugge free-kick left Sergio Romero helpless, giving the club from Belgium an away goal.
An instant response was required, and Memphis Depay provided it fives minutes later with a skilful finish to score his first goal at Old Trafford.
This prompted van Gaal's men to push on in search of a second, and nearly did so when Wayne Rooney's acrobatic attempt was cleared off the line by Victor Vazquez.
Depay again went close moments later, before netting his second of the game just before half-time, a sublime finish which left with Sebastian Bruzzese with no chance.
The young Dutch international started the second half in very much the same vein, again trying his luck from range three minutes in.
An excellent counter-attack should have seen the 21-year-old complete his hat-trick in the 64th minute, but composure let him down after being played in by Rooney.
To wrap things up, Marouane Fellani netted a late United goal deep into injury-time to put the men in red firmly in the driving seat come next week's second leg.
2015/16 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - Qualifying play-off first leg
*Match report by Joe Baker