|photo by urbanlegend||via PhotoRee|
Playing as if suddenly awoken from a long slumber, and showing grit, passion and incisiveness for virtually the first time in this nightmarish season, Manchester United rebounded from a dour 2-0 first leg defeat to knock Greek side Olympiacos out of the Champions League on Wednesday night. The 3-0 victory in front of the home fans revived the many European memories this storied club holds in its vaults, with tonight's circumstances and result most closely approximating United's famous comeback against Barcelona nearly 30 years ago.
Led by a Robin Van Persie hat trick, and inspirational play from Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia, the Red Devils' offense was not the only storyline to emerge from the pulsating encounter; rather, it was David De Gea's stunning work in between the posts that saved the team from disaster on several occasions, the Spaniard staking his legitimate claim to world's best with his performance -- a position he no doubt holds in the hearts of any true United supporter after yet another otherworldly outing.
Although the predictable reaction in the twitter-verse was to greet the evening's victory as "saving" the manager's job, and even more so as a game that could well represent a "turnaround" in United's quagmire of a season, instead the victory should be savored for what it truly was: a win for the home crowd, and a game that woke up the echoes reverberating throughout the stadium from the clubs' legendary European past.
Herewith, the individual player ratings on a rare night to be enjoyed from this season:
De Gea: Stunning, instinctive saves both before and after the break: a stone wall that kept his team alive. Man of the Match: 9.5
Rafael: Confident, decent defensive performance tonight. 8.0
Jones: Solid at the back. 7.5
Ferdinand: Did just enough to put off Olympiacos. 7.5
Evra: Nearly scored on a header before the break, but caught out repeatedly on defense and became a bigger and bigger liability as the game wore on. 5.5
Valencia: Targeted early for physical treatment and hammered repeatedly. Played one-eyed for most of the contest, and put in one hell of a shift. 8.0
Carrick: Clearance near the line was key. 7.0
Giggs: Three picture perfect passes, and all before the halftime whistle. Ageless on nights like tonight. 8.0
Welbeck: Looked a warrior out there today, gave it absolutely everything he had. 8.0
Rooney: Denied only by the post after 17 minutes. Inspirational performance from the future captain. 9.0
van Persie: Bowled over for the penalty and blasted it home to start the fight back. Tapped home Wazza's cross and hammered a free kick to make it complete. A bit worryingly, was stretchered off at the end. 8.5
Young (Valencia), 79: N/A
Fletcher (Welbeck), 83: N/A
Fellaini (van Persie), 91: One of the great time wasting performances of the modern era. 7.5
This is farlieonfootie for March 19.