REPORTS & PREVIEWS

19/03/2014 21:56, Report by Nick Coppack
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The Match: Greek odyssey

After our match report, we take a closer look at the 3-0 win over Olympiacos...

The match A “chalk and cheese” display from the game in Athens two weeks ago. Here at Old Trafford, the Reds were fluid in attack and showed the fighting spirit we’ve come to expect on these big European nights. Although the Greek side fashioned the first clear-cut chance and should have gone ahead, there was a feeling, once Robin van Persie’s penalty hit the back of the net on 25 minutes, there was only going to be one winner.

The goals Van Persie won and converted the penalty (firing the ball to Roberto’s left) that gave United the lead on 25 minutes. He was similarly clinical and composed in first-half injury time when he side-footed Wayne Rooney’s low cross through the goalkeeper’s legs from close range. The hat-trick came via a free-kick, hit past the wall rather than over or around it, to complete a memorable treble.

Star man It’s hard to look past van Persie but there were also strong contributions from David De Gea (more on that below), Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs. Rooney worked his socks off, too, while the back four dealt well with the Greeks' counter-attacking threat.

Sub-plot Recent results and sub-par performances had led to questions about David Moyes’ future in the pre-match press conference. This win – and United’s subsequent progression to the Champions League last eight – will surely put that speculation to bed.

The opposition While Olympiacos never really looked like winning, they didn’t have to. One goal would have made life extremely uncomfortable for the Reds and they employed counter-attacking tactics that almost paid off. Indeed, David Fuster should have put the Greek side ahead on 15 minutes. Had that gone in, it could have been a completely different story…

Move of the match Giggs’s vision was a treat in the first half, particularly some of his long, angled passes, but it was De Gea’s double save on 40 minutes that was key. Without it, Olympiacos would have levelled the scores. Instead, the Spaniard showed cat-like reactions to repel Fuster’s header and then thrust out his right leg at the near post

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