Manchester United 3 Olympiakos 0: Five things we learnt, including Antonio Valencia is tough, Rafael is dangerous and United still do comebacks

United are fearless and fighting back

Old Trafford

Manchester United can still do comebacks

Along Old Trafford’s endless corridors, the televisions were broadcasting from Manchester United’s considerable archives of great comebacks. There was the Bryan Robson-inspired victory over Barcelona in 1984 that was the last time they had overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit. There was Steve Bruce’s late, late header against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 and, of course, the moment that defined the Ferguson era –Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s  winner against Bayern Munich in 1999.

It would be laughable to compare Olympiakos with Bayern but this was a reminder of what Manchester United are about. It was probably not necessary for United to go through on Wednesday night for David Moyes to survive but it was imperative they performed. Here, they did both.

Valencia is a tough player, Rafael is a dangerous one

Before kick-off, United’s captain, Patrice Evra, urged his players to “give everything for the shirt”. It may have been a cliché but Antonio Valencia responded with the kind of display Robson would have recognised.

Captain Marvel would probably have also recognised the boxer’s bruise that almost closed the midfielder’s eye. The clash with Joel Campbell was early enough and serious enough for the Ecuadorian to be forced off. Instead, within minutes, he was tackling back against the on-loan Arsenal striker and then racing down the right flank only to be brought down by Ivan Marcano.

 

Rafael da Silva made a sizeable contribution to Manchester United’s elimination from the Champions League four years ago with his dismissal against Bayern Munich and it was his handball that gave Liverpool the first of their three penalties on Sunday. Again he was loose early on and a better team than Olympiakos would have exploited it.

Read more: Moyes buoyed by RVP hat-trick
Who might sign for United this summer?
Moyes praises 'freak' Giggs
Moyes hopes RVP is 'not too bad'

You don’t have to like a manager to play for him

Mike Brearley, who captained England to three Ashes triumphs, wrote a manual for sports leadership, called The Art of Captaincy. In it, he exploded the theory that successful teams all got along in the dressing room. Brearley argued that dressing room tensions were actually  creative as people sought to prove a point.

If the stories detailing the rifts between Moyes and Ryan Giggs are correct then his performance last night, full of all the vision and cunning that makes him a great footballer at 40, proved Brearley right. This would be par for Moyes’ course at Old Trafford. He has, after all, agreed a five-year contract with Wayne Rooney, a man he once sued for libel.

Olympiakos are not  that good

They were not, to Roy Keane’s evident disgust, all that good when winning 2-0 in Athens. They were, admittedly, far better than Galatasaray had been at Chelsea on Tuesday but it was only when Robin van Persie scored United’s third that Olympiakos began really to threaten.

Had United been up against one of the big beasts of European football, it is unlikely the night would have burned quite so brightly for Moyes and Van Persie. Olympiakos have not travelled well, even in this season’s Champions League, and this was their 12th straight defeat in England. But for David de Gea’s brilliant double save before half-time, they might have held on. However, the problem with being champions of a very weak league is that you are very seldom stretched. Here they were and they broke early.

United deserve applause but not an ovation

For once, Manchester United played at Old Trafford as if it were their home ground and they have progressed further in the competition than their great rivals at the Etihad. Nevertheless, they have only reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup – which is precisely what they budget for at Old Trafford. They could, like Liverpool in 2005 and Chelsea in 2012, win the  European Cup without finishing in the top four. Somehow, you doubt it.

Read more: Unconvincing victory fails to hide lack of quality
Five things we learnt at Old Trafford
Manchester United player ratings
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map