Manchester United qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League after defeating Olympiakos 3-0 at Old Trafford.
United made history as the only team ever in the competition to turn around a 2-0 aggregate deficit from the first leg, as Robin van Persie netted a hat-trick. Van Persie was one of five key men who stepped up to the plate when it mattered most for his team.
Robin van Persie – Scored a hat-trick and put to bed all doubts over his goal-scoring form. Had the nerve required to score the penalty for his first, which helped settle United into the game. The Dutchman displayed the initiative we are so used to seeing from him for his second, as he latched on to the end of a Wayne Rooney delivery. The Olympiakos goalkeeper was at fault for the goal that sealed his hat-trick, but his celebrations showed just how much he still loves scoring in a United shirt.
Wayne Rooney – Back to his best in Europe. Phenomenal delivery to assist Van Persie’s second goal and showed all the kind of display all United fans have come to expect from him. Often went missing in the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool, but his effort and commitment to the cause tonight cannot be faulted.
Ryan Giggs – Some continue to question Giggs’ age when he is announced in the starting eleven for United. But the truth is, he is more inventive than any other midfielder at the club. His 40-yard pass in the first-half found van Persie, who then won the penalty. His footballing intelligence is still such a valuable asset to United. He also lasted the full 90 minutes, proving age is just a numer.
Danny Welbeck – Got the start many United fans were calling for, and he delivered. His pace and energy was too much for the Olympiakos defence to handle, and has certainly given manager David Moyes a selection headache for future games. His smart play won the free-kick that led to the crucial third goal that sent United though.
David De Gea – Made a vital double-stop in the first-half to keep Olympiakos at bay. Saved a sharp headed effort, only to also get back to his feet and deny the rebounded shot from going in to the bottom corner. Sharp on his toes and commanding in his area. An important contribution.
So as United made history in the Champions League it was down to mostly their more experienced, big-hitters to rescue them from the nightmare in Greece.
Friday’s draw will certainly draw tougher opponents for the quarter-finals than Olympiakos, but for now United can revel in a night of glory in an otherwise disappointing season.
How far can Manchester United go in the Champions League after their record breaking win?