Manchester United made it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League by defeating Greek champions Olympiakos 3-0 in the second leg of the last-16 of the competition at Old Trafford last night.
The Red Devils progress was never comfortable, but a Robin van Persie hat-trick was enough to ensure that David Moyes’ side made it into the last eight of the competition.
The performance was a far better one than in recent weeks.
In Sunday’s defeat to Liverpool the players seemed to completely lack any sort of cohesion or spirit.
The performance against the Greek champions showed that there is still a will to win within that United squad.
Last night’s victory would have been a standard one under the former regime. In fact United probably would not have been beaten in the first leg. Beating a team like Olympiakos would have been a given under Sir Alex Ferguson, but it must have been a relief for his replacement David Moyes that the Red Devils put in such a decent display.
The victory was by no a comfortable one, with the Greek side threatening on a number of occasions, but last night’s display was definitely a more vibrant one than many of United’s this season.
Many of United players put in inspiring performances against the Greeks. Spanish keeper David de Gea produced some vital saves, especially a double save in the first half with the game and tie delicately posed. Without those saves United would have had a mountain to climb.
Hat-trick hero Van Persie looked more like the player who terrorised defences last season. The Dutchman’s season has been interrupted by injuries this season, but last night he was back to his lethal best.
Unfortunately the striker picked-up a knee injury that could prevent him from playing in United’s game at West Ham on Sunday. David Moyes has suggested that the injury is not too serious, but the Red Devils are awaiting confirmation of the seriousness of the knock.
Wayne Rooney also produced a performance close to his best, as he supplied Van Persie with the second goal and put in an all-action display. If United are going to re-ignite their season then the England international could be crucial for them.
Arguably the performance of the night came from veteran player/coach Ryan Giggs. The 40-year-old rolled back the years in the centre of the United midfield. The Welshman was outstanding as he played his part in the first two United goals.
Giggs presence in midfield seemed to ignite Van Persie’s interest up front. The Dutch striker knew that if he got into the positions that there was a good chance that Giggs would be able to find him.
The likes of Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini do not have the same vision or experience as the Welshman, well let’s face it there are very few players in football that do have Giggs experience. When United needed him, the veteran ace was there to help United through.
Giggs experience was a key component for United, which is quite concerning when you consider that he is coming to the end of his career.
The victory over Olympiakos may not have been perfect, but it was a vast improvement on Sunday’s terrible defeat against Liverpool. United started to look like the United of seasons gone by and not the United of this season.
It may have just been one victory, but the performance and attitude of the player’s in last night’s game points to their being light at the end of the tunnel for Manchester United this season. The Red Devils need to use this as a victory to finish the season in a strong manner.
David Moyes desperately needed this victory to take the heat off him. Maybe if United do finish the season in a strong manner, then more United fans will believe that the Scot is actually capable of rebuilding a squad that will again be challenging for silverware, but then again maybe not.
Can Manchester United finish the season in a strong manner?