Wayne Rooney was at his luminous best to inspire Manchester United FC to a comfortable victory against Debreceni VSC and towards the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Rooney broke the deadlock after just seven minutes, pouncing on a loose ball in the penalty area and from then on, a far from fluent United never looked back. The England striker teed up further goals for Ruud van Nistelrooij and Cristiano Ronaldo after the interval, meaning the second leg in Budapest on 24 August should be little more than a formality.
This is the third time in four years that United have had to negotiate a potentially tricky qualifying tie, and they showed few nerves as they dominated the initial exchanges. Rooney was in the thick of it and soon opened the scoring, clinically dispatching a first-time shot into the bottom corner to rouse the watching Glazer family to their feet.
It was Sir Alex Ferguson's side's first competitive match since Malcolm Glazer's successful takeover, and but for the classy Hungarian centre-back László Eger, his three sons could have spent much more of the match standing up. The stocky 28-year-old was excellent, spoiling move after move, although he could do nothing to halt Ronaldo just before the interval when the Portuguese winger's angled drive forced a splendid save from Norbert Csernyánszki.
For all their dominance, United almost fell behind a minute after the restart, when Péter Halmosi slotted past debutant goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, but the effort was ruled out for a prior infringement. The chance was a wake-up call for the Premiership outfit, and Van Nistelrooij soon doubled their advantage.
Van Nistelrooij strike
The Netherlands striker looked strangely out of sorts in the 1999 European champions' pre-season tour of the Far East, but showed no hesitancy in drilling a low shot past Csernyánszki after Rooney had rolled the ball into his path. Rooney was again at the heart of United's third just after the hour, running on to Van Nistelrooij's clever touch and crossing for Ronaldo to sweep the ball in.
Rooney almost made it 4-0 before the final whistle, his long-range shot narrowly missing the target, and few would have begrudged him a second, but he and the home side will be content with a 3-0 victory. Debrecen, meanwhile, have a seemingly impossible mountain to climb in the return leg.