Robin van Persie fires shaky but gritty Manchester United past Olympiakos

Manchester United's victory over Olympiakos was anything but certain, but a performance full of some much-needed heart allowed them to get past thanks to a hat-trick from Robin van Persie.

Manchester United looked, in several ways, like the fabled Manchester United Of Old in getting past Olympiakos thanks to a hat-trick from Robin van Persie.

Van Persie opened the scoring by slamming away a penalty after being bundled over by Holebas, before adding a second just before half-time. With United 2-0 up, he then fired his team into the lead with a glorious dipping free-kick.

It was a slightly worrying start, in truth, with an odd teamsheet seeing Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand starting. The former was particularly poor - although he had a big hand in the opening goal by threading the ball through, his passing was generally atrocious for most of the night as United wasted possession and, in turn, conceded chances, although fortunately mostly to Perez, who was unable to make much of them.

United were not giving a performance of classic swagger or quality, but they showed a lot of heart and determination which was ultimately enough to see them through. When Giggs did pick out Van Persie, the Dutchman took an age to steady himself but confidently smashed it home.

United were looking dangerous when they did get forward - Antonio Valencia's performance was perhaps marred by a terrible facial injury he received early on, although given that he had already passed back to a defender when a clear through ball was on, much to the groaning of the crowd, it may not have affected him too much. Yet Rooney was in reasonable form, and he, Van Persie and the excellent Danny Welbeck allowed United to look more threatening in attack than they have for some time.

The second goal came before half-time as Rooney found the assist, cutting it in for the Dutchman for a trademark low, powerful finish to bring United's equaliser to leave one more goal being enough for the hosts. After the second half began, they found it, as Van Persie stepped up to fire home from a free-kick.

Olympiakos pushed for a goal and United had to retreat ever deeper, but just about managed to hang on, although Van Persie had to be stretchered off in a worrying sign at the end.

A shaky comeback, full of width and dodgy defending, being carried by a world-class forward, against a side we never should have been behind to in the first place, at a quiet Old Trafford and finally seeing the job through by the skin of our teeth after being helped on our way by a dodgy penalty. Close your eyes, it's almost late-era Ferguson...

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