Manchester United 3:0 Olympiacos (UEFA Champions League)

64FA56F3CD454A9C9C1BBA4F369A8747.ashxRobin van Persie netted a hat-trick to inspire Manchester United to a thrilling 3-0 victory (3-2 on aggregate) over Olympiacos and send the Reds through to the Champions League quarter-finals.

Not since 1984 – indeed, 30 years ago this week – had United turned around a two-goal first-leg deficit in Europe. But on Wednesday, in front of a raucous Old Trafford crowd, van Persie’s treble ensured David Moyes’ maiden European voyage remained on course for Lisbon and gave United fans a thrilling night to remember.

But while the Dutchman will deservedly dominate the column inches, David De Gea’s stunning double save on 40 minutes – first from David Fuster’s bullet header and then Dominguez’s follow-up at the near post – proved just as pivotal.

Nobody would have blamed the Spaniard had either effort found the net but he saved both brilliantly to preserve the 1-0 lead earned when van Persie had earlier opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Five minutes after De Gea’s double denial, in first-half injury time, RvP swept home Wayne Rooney’s cross from close range. United were 2-0 up, level on aggregate and, crucially, in possession of the momentum and confidence that would ultimately carry the Reds to victory.

Van Persie sealed his hat-trick just six minutes into the second period, curling home a free-kick from 25 yards that had Olympiacos goalkeeper Roberto fooled, rooted to the spot.

There were then nervy moments to endure, particularly when De Gea was called into action again at his near post to beat out Dominguez’s blast, but the Reds held on to claim a famous victory.

Comeback Kings!

GGMU

SS

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Manchester United 1:0 Shakhtar Donetsk (UEFA Champions League)

Manchester United completed a satisfying Champions League group stage with a 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk that clinched top spot in the section.

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David Moyes’ men got back to winning ways after successive home league defeats thanks to Phil Jones’ 67th-minute effort and the hard-earned triumph should boost confidence ahead of the weekend trip to Aston Villa.

The Ukrainians were confident in possession and a frustrating first half unfolded with Ashley Young spurning the Reds’ best two openings. The left-winger did well to beat Darijo Srna to a Ryan Giggs chip but then lofted a lob inches off target before flashing off target when put clear by Wayne Rooney.

Adnan Januzaj turned to fire straight at Andriy Pyatov and Rooney went close with a free-kick that brushed the netting but Shakhtar had chances of their own and looked a real threat. Alex Teixeira clipped wide of the far post after being released by Taison and ran through again unchecked to work David De Gea. Teixeira also robbed Rio Ferdinand, only for the defender to block Fred’s effort from the cross.

There was a fright at the start of the second half when a corner was allowed to run to Yaroslav Rakitskiy and his shot deflected off Jones and clipped a post. United responded with a Shinji Kagawa effort and a measured chip over the bar by Rooney but the goal only arrived after the introduction of Robin van Persie and Tom Cleverley.

Van Persie’s corner fell to Jones and the midfielder executed a controlled volley past Pyatov to break the deadlock and earn the acclaim of the Old Trafford faithful. Srna fizzed in a left-footed strike that De Gea held confidently but it was one of very few late chances for the visitors, who lost out to Bayer Leverkusen for second place in the group.

Can’t wait for the draw of last 16!

GGMU

S

Posted from my iPad

Bayer Leverkusen 0:5 Manchester United (UEFA Champions League)

Manchester United cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League with a remarkable 5-0 triumph at Bayer Leverkusen’s BayArena fortress.

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The Bundesliga outfit were strongly tipped to cause the Reds a host of problems but were dismantled in front of their home fans, who had hoped to see their own side clinch qualification. Wayne Rooney was involved in four of the goals while Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia also sparkled throughout. Valencia, an Emir Spahic own goal, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani registered on the scoresheet for an emphatic win – the biggest away success in European Cup since hammering Shamrock Rovers 6-0 in 1957.

It took 16 minutes for United to post a first real attempt on goal but the threat was ever-present once Nani curled over the bar from Ryan Giggs’ intelligent pass. When Bayer responded, Evans produced a marvellous goal-saving challenge after Stefan Kiessling dribbled past Rio Ferdinand and it proved vital with the opener coming seconds later when the visitors cleared the corner.

Shinji Kagawa dispossessed Stefan Reinartz and the ball was fed to Rooney via Giggs. The striker’s cross from the left was too high for Kagawa but Valencia arrived at the far post to sneak the ball home off the upright to follow up his strike in the first encounter between the two clubs back in September.

Rooney was again the provider from the left-hand side when his free-kick was back-headed into his own net by Spahic with the centre-back under pressure from Smalling and Evans. The Reds were rampant and Kagawa was unable to find a finish to match a penetrative run through the middle while Valencia worked Bernd Leno as the interval approached.

Kagawa received a clattering challenge from keeper Leno when bidding to extend the advantage in the second half before Nani fired wide after a swift interchange of passes with the alert Rooney. Reinartz headed against the woodwork with Rooney grounded and appealing for a foul from a corner but it proved a rare scare with Rooney unlucky to bend a drive wide after knocking the ball through Simon Rolfes’ legs.

The points were sealed on 65 minutes when Giggs’ corner was headed on by Evra for Rooney to force a sprawling save out of Leno. Evans reacted quickest to the rebound to smuggle the ball in for a third. There was no let-up from David Moyes’ side and lofted passes by Kagawa and Rooney led to Smalling getting in on the act by netting from close range.

It always looked like getting worse for Leverkusen but Leno dived to pull off a one-handed stop to thwart Jones and substitute Anderson was unable to finish off Nani’s inviting pass. A fifth goal did arrive two minutes from the end when Giggs’ through ball was chested past Leno by Nani and the Portuguese winger produced an exquisite finish with the outside of his right foot, jabbing the ball in from an acute angle.

David De Gea was given a chance to show his class when denying Eren Derdiyok. United need a point against Shakhtar Donetsk in the final Group A game to qualify in first place. Following this result, confidence will surely be sky-high for the Reds.

And the Reds go marching on on on!

GGMU

S

Posted from my MacBook