Manchester United 3-0 Olympiacos (3-2 agg) - Van Persie leads United to famous comeback
David Moyes had encouraged United supporters to make time-wasting noticeable to the officials in his programme notes, predicting Olympiacos to be the perpetrators. But when referee Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers put his whistle to his lips, United were the only side in a packed Old Trafford employing the strategy.
David Moyes's men revelled in their superb achievement, advancing into the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The Scot bounced around in joy, the ardent home support, who had been forced to suffer of anxiety, loudly sang their songs. Never has the Theatre of Dreams sounded so deafening this season.
United proved the huge difference purpose can impose. After abject displays in Athens and here to fierce rivals Liverpool on Sunday, Moyes's men seemingly reinvigorated, no more than Robin van Persie. The Dutchman had been the subject of criticism of late, the concerns sufficiently dispensed in a vivacious performance, resulting in a hat-rick.
The 30 year-old resurrected United's disheartening season with his three majestic goals, guiding his side into a quarter-final tie he will be a doubt for, having been stretchered off with his hamstrings tightly strapped.
David De Gea also excelled, producing numerous vital saves, most notably a sensational double block during the first-half. Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney were tireless, their work-rate commendable. Antonio Valencia's courageous effort, sporting a shiner on the top of his eye, epitomized a spirited United performance.
The ageless Ryan Giggs, who started for the third time in 15 games, was particularly impressive, heavily involved in Van Persie's first two goals. On a delicately-poised evening as such, experience was priceless.
Moyes understood its valuable worth as Rio Ferdinand made his 450th Manchester United appearance with only his third start in 19 games. Giggs began his first in 11. Moyes made the big calls for the big occasion.
Olympiacos began well, contesting evenly and leading were it not for Hernan Peréz's weak finishing. Joel Campbell, moments after having innocently clashed heads with Valencia, easily drifted past Evra, only his impressive work to be undone by Peréz's profligate finish, firing over the crossbar.
Giggs, not on the first occasion during the evening, excellently found Wayne Rooney, whose subsequent header struck the foot of the post to be gleefully cleared by Holebas. However, the full-back's immediate delight would be short-lived.
Giggs once again called upon his wizardy passing range and vision to pinpoint Van Persie with a wonderful long-range pass. Holebas suicidally ploughed into the latter's back, forcing him to go down and for Kuipers to correctly point to the spot.
Van Persie's resulting spot-kick was assured and composed, powering the ball past the despaired clutches of Roberto to give United a glimmer of hope.
Olympiacos posed a genuine threat, Campbell in particular. The Arsenal loanee was eager for the ball and fearless, taking on the illustrious names before him successfully.
Two exceptional goalkeeping antics followed as Robero expertly tipped Evra's header around the post and De Gea produced an amazing double block to stifle the prospect of a detrimental away goal.
The Spaniard thwarted Peréz's effort, which was directed too close to him, before rapidly reacting to block Alejandro Domínguez's strike at goal at the corresponding post. 75,00 sighed a collective sigh of relief. They were aware of the hugely damaging implications held by a potential Olympiacos goal.
Giggs was once again the spark to another attacking move. The Welshman's elegant cross-field was controlled and fizzed into the box by Rooney. Van Persie moved goalside of Kostas Manolas to tuck home and send Old Trafford into raptures of wild celebration. Just as Olympiacos kicked to restart the game, Kuipers blew his whistle as Moyes ran,to deliver a jubilant team -talk, skipping across the touchline.
Five minutes into the second-half, Van Persie completed his hat-rick as his free kick sailed past the static Roberto. Question will arise of the goalkeeper but the ball was sweetly struck by Van Persie. United, for the first time in the tie, were leading.
Michel's Olympiacos sensed it also. Hernan Peréz was central to the offensive threat the Greeks posed, firing over the bar before Domínguez, goal scorer in Athens, saw his volley elude the squared clutches of the net.
De Gea gathered Fuster's effort before blocking Domínguez's powerful strike at his near post. Old Trafford was submerged in tension.
But United held on stubbornly, Jones excellent and De Gea flawless. Moyes has gone from crisis to the last eight of the Champions League.
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