It might not be the turning point David Moyes needed to save his United career, it’ll probably not change the way this season will be considered, but tonight’s performance showed that United can still turn up and give their fans something to shout about.
Evoking the spirit of ’84 might be a step too far, but United proved that they still have enough quality to perform on the big stage and the fans responded admirably, dragging their side through 90 emotional minutes.
Does tonight change David Moyes’ future or the impact he’s had on United this season? Probably not, for the way the players responded tonight probably asked more questions than it answered, but in a season of lows, a win such as tonight’s is always going to be rousingly celebrated.
United weren’t outstanding, they simply were a lot better than they’ve been all season. In short, they turned up, put on a shift and gave their fans something to cheer about.
Danny Welbeck replaced Adnan Januzaj, with Antonio Valencia coming in for the cup-tied Juan Mata, while Ryan Giggs was surprisingly given the nod in midfield ahead of Marouane Fellaini.
After a quiet start during which United failed to create anything worth mentioning, apart from a Rooney’s header crashing against the post, Giggs found Van Persie with a superb lofted pass.
Having brought down in the box, RVP drilled the subsequent penalty past Olympiakos’ keeper Roberto to get the juices flowing in the stands.
David De Gea rescued United twice in quick succession after Patrice Evra had switched on yet again – much as we love Paddy, he’s a terrible liability defensively – and allowed Olympiakos through.
Van Persie added his second just before halftime by tucking in Rooney’s cross, before he completed his hat-trick straight after the restart with an excellent free-kick.
Those who expected United to sail through were left disappointed, as United took their foot of the gas and left everybody at Old Trafford on the edge of their seats, with Phil Jones, Michael Carrick excelling in their roles, while Giggs continued to defy age in the middle of the park.
What the future holds is unknown, probably a defeat in the quarter final and a shocking performance against City, but it’d be foolish not to enjoy tonight at least a bit.
Granted, United will not win the Champions League this season and tonight’s game wasn’t superb, nor should Moyes’ tenure being judged on the basis of a single game, but at least we’ve something to cheer about after eight months.
For tonight, that’s more than enough.