1. Recalling Welbeck and Giggs
The decision to recall Ryan Giggs and leave Marouane Fellaini on the bench last night was a brave call by Moyes. At 40 years old Giggs isn't expected to start a game of this magnitude and importance when you have spent £27m on a central midfielder but it worked. He was instrumental in everything United did well last night and after 95 minutes didn't even look out of breath. In the same respect, Welbeck gave the hosts an attacking drive that's been missing of late. Exemplified mid-way through the first period receiving the ball inside the united half with two Olympiacos midfielders up his arse Welbeck showed great feet and an excellent turn to escape both challenges and run it in to the oppositions half earning his team a throw and time to re-compose. His running offered a constant out for the united defence and midfield with great movement and good hold up play allowing Rooney and van Persie time to move into more dangerous territory. His inclusion gave the team a new dimension up top and freed up the midfield to run beyond the defence.
What was the clear from the get go was the message from David Moyes to his team, get out there and attack them, don’t sit back and hit them with all you have, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The willingness to run at the Greek defence caused issues from the whistle although it left United’s defence open at the back on more than one occasion Moyes had no choice but to tell his players to go for it. If they hadn’t applied an all out attack attitude they were going out of the Champions League and Moyes would have been left completely open for criticism and we all know he doesn’t need any more.
3. The 4-1-3-2 Formation.
A back four with Carrick holding in midfield allowed Ryan Giggs the freedom to attack. Suddenly the impetus had changed dramatically from Sundays game against Liverpool, with all four attacking front men running in behind the defence knowing with United’s number 11 pulling the strings they would be fed and with both first half goals coming from the United legends excellent vision and long range passing ability the managers offensive tactics were perfectly envisioned and executed. Gary Neville summed it up well in the post-match analysis when he said with Giggsy on the field it gives everyone else belief and composure. It showed last night.
4. Moyes’ Faith in Van Persie
I saw a lot of speculation yesterday in the press that dropping van Persie to the bench would show Moyes' ruthless streak that has been missing all season. RVP has been strangely out of sorts as I said in my previous column yesterday and dropping him wouldn't have been a surprise or In fact unjustified. But the Dutchman repaid his faith netting a hat trick, United's first ever in the knock out stages of the Champions League with a superb penalty, a well taken strikers goal and a fortunate free kick. Gone were the slumped shoulders and frustrated expression across the face, this was the RVP of old doing what he does best, hitting the back of the net.
5. Playing without Nemanja Vidic
Vidic will go down as one of the greatest defenders to ever grace the Premier League not just Manchester United. His decision to leave at the end of the season for Inter Milan is somewhat the end of an era for the club. Vidic hasn’t been the same towering all commanding presence in the last 18 months of his United career and now his moving on serves both himself and the club well. Phil Jones is ready to take his place in the heart of the defence at Old Trafford, all he needs is big game time. Last night alongside Ferdinand the inexperience showed at times but his natural defending ability also shone through at key moments. Jones is the future of defending at United, now is his time to show it.
6. Thankful for David De Gea’s amazing reactions
What a double save from a goalkeeper who was criticised so often early in his United career but now never talked about. That my friends is the art of being a great goalkeeper, you’re only ever mentioned when you do something right. This boy is going to be one of the world’s best in time and at just 23 years old he has already cemented his place in this team and will be pushing for the Spain number 1 shirt very soon you watch. The only worry I have is if the all mighty Real Madrid come calling, they usually do.
7. Antonio Valencia, Beast.
It was quite funny in a way watching him play with one eye for 70 minutes looking like he had gone 12 rounds with Tyson without looking even remotely phased. You can just imagine “Big Tone” as he is known in our household finishing a match, heading back to the dressing room, getting into his three piece suit and panama hat lighting up a Cuban cigar, getting home and sitting on a balcony in quiet contemplation. Doubt that happens but it’s a good image.
Last night watching United was like watching the United of old. The result, and more importantly, performance was good last night. Olympiacos aren’t the best team in the world but they shouldn’t be underestimated, they can hurt you and on another night where the strikers don’t fluff their lines and without De Gea making THAT double save the result could have been very different. What was great to see though was the whole team showing a spirit and a resolve that’s been badly lacking for the majority of this season, maybe this is a turning point, maybe it isn’t and maybe they go to West Ham on Saturday and go back to looking uninterested and lifeless again but as a fan it was a damn good feeling to see a glimmer of what this team can be.
What did you think of this article, do you agree or disagree? Was there anything missing? Let me know in the comments section.
Follow me on that twitter jobby thingy @CravoTJRSports