Robin van Persie scored a hat-trick to ease the pressure on beleaguered manager David Moyes and lead Manchester United into the last eight of the Champions League, as they overcame a two-goal aggregate deficit to dispatch of Olympiacos.
Manchester United entered into the encounter having reached a nadir of the brief Moyes era after a 3-0 trouncing by Liverpool at Old Trafford last Sunday, and knowing it would take the reverse result to ensure their passage into the next round of European competition.
Given their dreadful form of late, with seven games lost in 2014 alone, such a result appeared to be beyond last season’s Premier League champions, but they summoned a performance reminiscent of the days of Sir Alex Ferguson to join Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
Van Persie provided just the start that was required when he found the net from the penalty spot with a crisp left-footed finish on 25 minutes, before striking again on the stroke of the interval.
David de Gea had twice repelled the Greeks in impressive fashion just moments before, allowing Manchester United to surge forward through Ryan Giggs and then Wayne Rooney, who slid a perfect pass across the area for Van Persie to side-foot a second.
Two goals without conceding was the minimum requirement for Manchester United but a third would negate the need for extra-time, and it was only six minutes into the second half that they were able to find it.
It was Van Persie once again who breached the Olympiacos defences, this time from a free-kick, as he wrong-footed Jiménez Gago in the opposition goal, and sent his low curling effort past the helpless keeper.
Moyes was clearly pumped as he saw his side move into the lead, but the work was far from complete. It took a composed defensive display in the latter stages to shut out the Greek champions, before Old Trafford erupted at the sound of the final whistle.
Manchester United are now in the hat for the last eight of Europe’s marquee club competition and, along with Chelsea, they join Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
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