Manchester United needed a huge performance from their best player in Wednesday's Champions League match against Olympiakos, and Robin van Persie came through for his club with a hat trick to lead his team to victory.
The squad entered the day trailing 2-0 on aggregate score in the two-legged battle against the Greek club. Fortunately, van Persie was there to make up those two goals in the first half of the contest.
In the 23rd minute, the forward earned a penalty when he was tackled in the zone, as described by ESPN FC:
PENALTY TO UNITED! Van Persie pushed over in the back while pulling down a cross.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 19, 2014
He calmly stepped up to the spot and drilled the goal to the right side of the net:
This was a huge play to get van Persie going after the striker had struggled recently:
184 - The penalty was Robin van Persie's first shot on target in 184 minutes in all competitions.— EPL Stuff (@EPLStuff) March 19, 2014
Fortunately, he was able to keep this momentum going for the rest of the first half as he remained active throughout. The payoff finally came shortly before intermission as Ryan Giggs set up Wayne Rooney to make a brilliant cross in front of the net. Van Persie was able to finish with his second goal of the match.
As Rob Stone of Fox points out, there was some impressive footwork going on to create the score:
Manchester United were able to take the 2-0 lead into halftime, basically restarting the tie with a chance to advance into the Champions League quarterfinals.
Of course, van Persie was not the only person contributing for the home squad. Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror also gave credit to the play of David de Gea in net:
Van Persie scores but the real hero is De Gea whose save looks to be the defining moment in the tie. Brilliant stop.— Darren Lewis (@MirrorDarren) March 19, 2014
Still, the Dutch star was far from finished. Six minutes into the second half, he completed the hat-trick with an impressive left-footed shot on a free kick from 20 yards out:
This goal gave Manchester United the aggregate lead over the UCL rivals and the club was able to hold on for a win.
The only negative came in the closing minutes as he was forced off in a stretcher:
Robin van Persie being taken off on a stretcher. Marouane Fellaini coming on.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) March 19, 2014
After a showing like this, fans are certainly hoping this ailment turns out to be minor.
The performance from van Persie in a big game is highly encouraging after plenty of recent scrutiny. Martin Allen of the Daily Mail explained in a recent column that van Persie needs to be sold immediately.
On the other hand, the player felt the need to address the recent rumours about him leaving at the end of the year, explaining via Sky Sports:
The truth is I'm very happy here at this club. I signed for four years and I'd be delighted to stay even longer, beyond the next two years I have left on my contract. This is how I feel, although it's not what has been suggested in the media.
Like I said, talk about my performances or talk about a tackle that was too late. I don't mind. But it goes too far when people start suggesting, amongst other things, that I have a bad understanding with the manager. That's not true at all.
If van Persie can continue to put together strong performances like this one and help his team win matches, there will be no more debate over his value with the club.
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