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United need spirit of 1984 to get through against Olympiakos

Manchester United will be calling on the spirit of Bryan Robson, the inspiration behind a never-to-be-forgotten European comeback 30 years ago, when they bid to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Olympiakos and save their season at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

The Reds were seemingly down and out of the Cup Winners’ Cup after a Barcelona side that included none other than Diego Maradona beat them 2-0 at the Nou Camp.

But United swarmed all over the Catalans in the return leg to go 3-0 up after an hour – thanks to two goals from ‘Captain Marvel’ and another from Frank Stapleton – and then hung on for dear life for a famous victory.

Coral bet 10/1 that history repeats itself and we get another 3-0 home win, but though Olympiakos aren’t exactly Barcelona, today’s United aren’t exactly showing the same confidence and spirit that Ron Atkinson’s side displayed three decades ago, let alone the sheer bloody-mindedness of the Fergie teams that have since rescued so many lost causes.

They were dreadful in the first leg and weren’t much better when thrashed 3-0 at home by Liverpool on Sunday. Everybody has their own theories about why it has all gone wrong for United under Moyes, but the consequent bottom line has been a shocking lack of self-belief, which will only be reversed with a feel-good win.

The fans are still behind Moyes and the team and if that can translate into an early goal and real momentum, then we might yet be in for another famous European night in Manchester. Just one spark from Wayne Rooney (evens to score) or Robin van Persie (10/11) – or anybody – might be enough to light a fire on the pitch and in the stands that Olympiakos will find difficult to put out.

The Greeks are well on their way to another domestic title, but they are nothing special and they might even be starting a wobble of their own. They boasted a 27-game unbeaten record when beating United in the first leg, but then immediately lost their next two league matches. Maybe a little bit of complacency has crept in, but they will be unwise to take this battle for granted.

I have a feeling United might do it, perhaps after extra time. Coral go 6/1 it’s 2-0 after 90 minutes and 15/8 United qualify (2/5 Olympiakos).

The trouble is, though United might muddle through with the rub of the green this time, they may, unless they somehow recapture their very best form in a hurry, simply be delaying the inevitable – and potential embarrassment – as the real heavyweights of European football await in Friday’s quarter-final draw.