Manchester United's talismanic striker breaks a new record at the Old Trafford side in Champions League competition.
Robin van Persie returned a European hat-trick for Manchester United on a night where goals were a mandatory requirement, not just for their survival in the Champions League, but for the burden of pressure to be relieved from manager David Moyes and the club as a whole.
Trailing 2-0 on aggregate to Olympiacos due to a disastrous trip to Greece last month, United needed a big performance from one of their elite players and van Persie did not shirk from the challenge as he powered home a penalty, converted a Wayne Rooney assist then struck a tame and bizarre free-kick into the net to send the Old Trafford support into rapture as the Premier League team went ahead 3-2 over the course of two legs.
It was a five star performance for van Persie, who left the pitch on a stretcher - seemingly as just a precautionary measure - and returned a mixed bag of statistics having lost all eight of his aerial duels, completing just 74% of his passes but, crucially, scoring with 100% of his attempts on goal; three shots tried, three scored.
van Persie, 30, now has 15 goals for the season in all competitions, with three assists to boot, meaning he has an attacking efficiency of a goal scored or assist provided once every 104 minutes he is on the field.
While the former Arsenal man was pivotal in United's title-winning season last year, he has only sporadically played during this campaign, however, he ensured he put himself into the history books at Stretford once again as, on Wednesday evening, he became the first Red Devil to return a Champions League hat-trick in the knockout stages.
He is also now the fifth United player to score a hat-trick in the competition, after Andy Cole (who returned two), compatriot Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen.
Van Persie is the first Manchester United's player ever to score a hat-trick in the Champions League KO satages.— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 19, 2014
5 - RVP is the fifth Man Utd player to score a Champions League hat-trick after Cole (2), van Nistelrooy, Rooney and Owen. Company.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2014
4 - Robin van Persie is the fourth Dutch player to score a CL hat-trick after van Nistelrooy, Makaay (2 each) & van Basten. Masters.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 19, 2014