Manchester United vs. Olympiakos: 5 Things We Learned
Losing 2-0 away to Olympiakos on Feb. 25 was a dreadful result for Manchester United. Whilst the champions of England have struggled this season, nobody seriously expected this Greek side to pose them any real problems.
To concede twice and not even have the consolation of an away goal was awful, and there were serious doubts over their progression.
Now they join Chelsea as the only other English side left in the Champions League, following an impressive 3-0 win at Old Trafford. Whilst it isn't worth getting too carried away, given this result wasn't against one of Europe's elite clubs, there were several talking points after the game.
There's Life in the Old Dog Yet
This evening's appearance was just Ryan Giggs' fourth in 2014, with the aging legend clearly not part of David Moyes' playing plans.
Whilst it probably wouldn't be sensible to play him on a regular basis, Giggs showed on Wednesday that he still has plenty to offer.
He played a fantastic ball forward to Robin van Persie, who was then fouled and earned the penalty for the first goal. Just before half-time, Giggs played another great ball up the pitch, this time to Wayne Rooney. The striker then played it back across the box for Van Persie to make it 2-0.
Just like against Real Madrid last season, Giggs was a contender for Man of the Match, which isn't bad for someone who turns 41 this year.
Van Persie Is Class...Even When Not at His Best
Robin van Persie has failed to recreate the superb form of last season after spending several weeks out injured.
Still, he boasts 0.68 goals per game this season, while it was 0.63 goals per game last season. In a season full of disappointment, United fans will warmly welcome his hat-trick this evening.
Welbeck Gives United a Different Dimension
Danny Welbeck was given just 15 minutes against Liverpool on Sunday, but United were reduced to 10 men just a minute after he came on the pitch, limiting the impact he could have.
This evening, United fans saw what he is capable of bringing to the team when he is at his best. He is always a worry for opposition defenders because of his fantastic movement and pace.
He still has to learn better composure when in front of goal, but when it comes to stretching opponents, Welbeck does a fantastic job of getting in behind the defenders and giving them something to fret about.
De Gea Is Vital to United's Future
Whilst the scoreline suggests a fairly comfortable result for United, David de Gea was called into action on a number of occasions and made some fantastic saves.
The Stretford End chanted his name repeatedly in recognition of how he, as much as Van Persie, had enabled United to progress to the next round.
Evra Is Lucky He's Popular
Everything that was dangerous from Olympiakos came down their right-hand side, with Patrice Evra getting caught out time and again.
The most frustrating thing about his failure to keep possession or his inability to win the ball back from the opposition was his reluctance to break a sweat when tracking back.
He adds so much to the team offensively, but when it comes to defending, which should be his primary role, he offers very little.
The vice-captain should feel lucky that he's so popular amongst the fans because not many other players would be able to get away with performances like that.