Man Utd and Moyes can thank Van Persie, De Gea and Giggs
Dutchman scores hat-trick and keeper stands firm to keep United in Europe and Moyes in a job
Manchester United 3 Olympiakos 0 [United win 3-2 on aggregate]. A hat-trick from Robin van Persie took Manchester United into the last eight of the Champions League and took the pressure of David Moyes – for the time being.
If Olympiakos had dumped United out of the competition, ending the English club's last chance of silverware this season, the chances were Moyes would have been out of a job by the end of the month. Instead the under-pressure Scot can look forward to tomorrow's quarter-final draw, although bookmakers have installed United as rank outsiders for the title.
Nonetheless Moyes, acknowledging that United "will be the underdogs" in the quarter-final, believes that with the talent available at Old Trafford they have nothing to fear in the next round. "I genuinely believe this club of is capable of doing it," he said, when asked if United could win the Champions League. "If we show our capabilities, which we haven't done too often this season, we can be a match for any team."
Moyes might not be so bullish when he sits down and watches a replay of Wednesday night's encounter. Though United fully deserved their victory it wasn't so much Van Persie who played the hero, but goalkeeper David De Gea. His brilliant double save from David Fuster and Alejandro Dominguez at the end of the first-half – when United were leading 1-0 on the night – prevented the Greeks scoring an all-important away goal that would have left United needing to score four.
Moments after De Gea's save Van Persie added his second to give the hosts a 2-0 lead at the break, and six minutes into the second period the Dutchman completed his hat-trick. Van Persie's evening ended with his departure on a stretcher but the word from United later was that the injury was nothing serious.
It was a night when Moyes entrusted United's fate to the club's old guard with 40-year-old Ryan Giggs making a rare start – and having a hand in two of van Persie's goals - while fellow veterans Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand also played the full 90 minutes. "He has not played much recently," admitted Moyes of Giggs. "He is 40 years old and I maybe needed to look to the future and give everybody opportunities but I felt tactically I needed him to play a certain role which I knew he would understand with his experience. He carried it out perfectly."
But United held out and Moyes was later asked if he believed the victory could be a turning point in the club's fortunes. "It was a magnificent team performance," he responded. "I don't want to come out and say 'this is the moment' but I hope it is…I have got a lot of things I want to do but the players gave the crowd something after we lost to Liverpool and we are delighted to see Manchester United in the last eight of the Champions League."