Wednesday 19th March , 2014 10:16 pm
A stunning Robin van Persie hat-trick was enough to put Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the Champions League and relieve the pressure on their beleaguered manager David Moyes.
Van Persie, who left the pitch on a stretcher late on, converted a first-half penalty and scored on the brink of half-time before he struck the final goal of the 3-0 win with a free-kick just after the restart.
The win meant that United saw off the challenge of Olympiakos 3-2 on aggregate.
The Theatre of Dreams turned into the scene of Moyes’ worst nightmare on Sunday when United lost 3-0 to Liverpool and questions arose about the manager’s future.
But the United boss got everything spot on against the Greek side.
The odds were against the United boss. The last time the Red Devils came back from 2-0 down in the first leg was 30 years ago when Bryan Robson inspired the team to a rousing 3-0 win over a Barcelona side that included Diego Maradona.
It was another United Stalwart, Ryan Giggs, who bossed the game against Olympiakos.
Moyes’ decision to deploy the 40-year-old in the middle of the park proved to be a masterstroke; he played a key role in the build-up to the first two goals and excelled throughout.
A battered and bloodied Antonio Valencia, who was given a black eye early in the first half, also put in a fine display.
In scoring his hat-trick, Van Persie joined an elite group of Manchester United players who have bagged Champions League hat-tricks. Andy Cole, Ruud van Nistlerooy, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are the only others to achieve a similar feat.
Although Moyes will be delighted with his team’s result, he will have concerns about their performance.
United had goalkeeper David de Gea to thank on more than one occasion for staying in the competition, the young Spaniard pulling off a particularly impressive double save just before Van Persie’s second.
Credit: RTE Sport