MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Robin van Persie ushered Manchester United into the Champions League quarterfinals — and potentially saved his manager's job — with a hat trick in a 3-0 victory over Olympiakos that completed one of the competition's greatest comebacks on Wednesday.
On one of the memorable European nights at Old Trafford, Van Persie scored three times in a 27-minute span either side of halftime to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. A slew of brilliant saves by David de Gea were also key to a famous win for the English champions — and a vital one for their manager, David Moyes.
Moyes' position had come under intense scrutiny after United's humiliating 3-0 loss to fierce rival Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, the latest in a string of dreadful results in his first season in charge.
An early exit in Europe could have stretched the patience of fans and United's hierarchy beyond breaking point — but Moyes is left hoping this can be a watershed moment in his United career.
"I don't want to come out here and say this is the moment," Moyes said, "but at the same time, I really hope it is."
A nerve-shredding night ended with Olympiakos captain Giannis Maniatis on his knees and in floods of tears, and Moyes saluting home fans and wearing the broadest grin.
The under-fire United manager was saved by the goal-scoring qualities of Van Persie, who converted a penalty in the 25th minute, side-footed home his second goal in first-half injury time and curled in a free kick in the 52nd. And he also had words of praise for Ryan Giggs, who at the age of 40 delivered a tireless performance in midfield.
Giggs lasted the full match, despite having played only 81 minutes since Jan. 7, and played a crucial role in Van Persie's first two goals.
"His all-round play was very good," Moyes said. "He defies his age."
Van Persie was carried off on a stretcher in the final minutes after hurting his leg in a challenge but Moyes said he didn't think it was a serious injury.
Olympiakos slumped to its 12th straight away defeat in England and missed out on securing a place in the last eight for the first time since 1999.
The Greek champions had their chances — some of De Gea's saves were breathtaking — but defensively they were chaotic and they became only the sixth team to squander a two-goal lead from the first leg of a Champions League match.