Man United: Might Be Another False Dawn But It's All We Have

The 3-0 win against Olympiakos wasn't flawless, but it did the job, and United live to fight another day...
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Man United: Things Are Far From Perfect, But Let Us Enjoy This Moment

It isn't easy living on scraps and, in a barrel-scraping waste of a season, Manchester United fans have had to do just that.

A decent result here, a passable performance there, more often than not against lowly opposition, has meant there have been few truly memorable occasions for us to enjoy.

Hence, a night like Wednesday is one to savour, even though its sweetness may not linger long. It says everything you need to know about United's season that, having just qualified for the last eight of European football's elite competition, a trip to West Ham, at the weekend, represents a treacherous test of the reigning champions' mettle.

As for the visit of their city rivals a few days later, it is a prospect too potentially painful to ponder.

For now, then, let us relish this rare sense of glory, and revel in the fact that we have resurrected a European dream that had seemed utterly dead and buried after the first leg of this tie, however unlikely further progress may appear at this stage.

We are all only too aware that far sterner tests than this await in the next round, with the other seven quarter finalists being of a particularly high calibre, this term. It is surely too much to hope that United can get much further in this competition.

Still, hope, we will. For football fans are fickle, and many a United supporter will feel the flickering flame of belief burning in their hearts, despite having turned corner after corner already, this season - only to crash into one brick wall after another.

The faces in the Old Trafford crowd were set in grim expectation of yet further disappointment, as the Champions League music blared around the stadium, a sense of sadness at the prospect of it being the final time we would hear that refrain for a good while weighing heavily in the atmosphere.

The tension was not to be lifted until the moment the referee blew his final whistle, confirming that United, against all the odds, had heaved themselves over the line and into the quarter finals.

It had not been a faultless display by any stretch of the imagination, but, with the humiliating non-performance against Liverpool, just four days earlier, still emblazoned on our collective memories, the relief around the Theatre of Dreams was palpable.

Nevertheless, as happy as the United faithful were to progress, any elation was noticeably mixed with apprehension; expectancy is thin on the ground, given what lies in wait in the next round, and what has gone before.


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It was, however, a blessed relief to have some rare positives to cling to. David De Gea's miraculous double-save that it could legitimately be argued was, in fact, a triple-save, given the fragility of his manager's position; Ryan Giggs' statesman-like midfield orchestration, full of the kind of guile so sorely lacking for so long; Phil Jones bedding beautifully into his rightful position in central defence, with Rio Ferdinand's calming influence alongside him a lovely reminder of days gone by; Robin Van Persie's burgeoning influence as the confidence and swagger streamed back into his veins with each goal; and Danny Welbeck's dynamism, energy, skill and strength once again opening David Moyes up to questions as to why he is not played more regularly.

The overwhelming reaction to what was United's best performance in a long time, has, inevitably, been an assumption that David Moyes has finally got his ailing charges playing for him.

There is, however, another possible interpretation. Namely, that the players were playing for themselves, their own pride and the fans, as opposed to their beleaguered manager.

It may seem harsh to suggest such a thing, given how undeniably hard Moyes is clearly working to 'try' to turn things around. Yet the Old Trafford crowd's moving and heartfelt reaction to their team's woeful capitulation against Liverpool must surely have left the players feeling wretched and ashamed.

Had they not at least shown some heart, spirit and desire in response, they could have had no qualms had the crowd turned toxic last night.

There is also the fact that, should Moyes lose his job in the coming weeks, the players would surely want to have the opportunity to compete in the Champions League under his replacement.

Time, and the upcoming performances against West Ham and Manchester City, will tell. For now, it would be only the most heartless of curmudgeons who resents Moyes the continuation of his remarkable and improbable Champions League journey. After all, it's all he's got.

As for the fans, we may have got used to feeding on scraps, but this particular morsel tasted rather good.

Follow Paul on Twitter at @paulgunning1