It wasn’t one of those perfect hat-tricks. It wasn’t sublimely skilful, or greatly artistic in execution, not the poetry in motion we have come to expect in this tournament from Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet it is hard to believe there will be a more valuable contribution to the David Moyes era than that of Robin van Persie at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
He didn’t just put Manchester United into the Champions League quarter-finals. He may even have kept his manager in employment.
Considering the wildly differing opinions about the job being done by Moyes around these parts, this may one day be seen as blessing or curse.
On Wednesday night, though, everybody seemed delighted, and that can only be a good thing, having had so little to shout about of late.
The one cloud was Van Persie’s disappearance on a stretcher late in the second half, following a challenge by Olympiacos defender Kostas Manolas.
On this form, United will need him, if not this weekend, then certainly against Manchester City here next Tuesday.
Moyes was playing the injury down on Wednesday night, perhaps anxious not to dampen the positive vibes.
Up to his point of departure, Van Persie’s contribution had defined the game. He won the penalty, took the penalty, scored the penalty, scored the aggregate equaliser, then nailed the winner.
On the touchline, Moyes was bouncing about like a man 20 years younger — or 20 years older if one recalls some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s more exuberant celebrations.
Indeed, there was an almost retro feel to this, a match and performance unlike any other in Moyes’s brief time at the club.
This was United as they used to be — bold, brave, cavalier, the defence giving everyone kittens from time to time, the forwards making up for it with awesome levels of energy.
Wayne Rooney covered more ground than any player on the field, and Ryan Giggs didn’t so much roll back the years as bathe in an elixir of youth.
He is tipped to manage here one day and his sole disadvantage will be the inability to throw himself into a match as important as this, to give United’s midfield the poise, class and purpose it has lacked for so much of this campaign.
Giggs played a part in United’s first two goals and barely put a foot wrong the rest of the night. Van Persie and Rooney were the fortunate recipients of a mature, intelligent range of passes, while even the most experienced members of Moyes’s squad — and the manager went for experience all the way here — benefited from his presence.
Van Persie most of all. What a difference this was from last weekend. As disengaged as the striker appeared four days ago, so he was United’s life and soul on Wednesday night.
It perhaps helped that Olympiacos quickly revealed themselves to be defensive dunderheads. United suffered a rash of penalties on Sunday against Liverpool and events in the 23rd minute here quickly brought back memories of Phil Jones’s clumsy and fateful challenge on Liverpool’s Joe Allen.
Olympiacos defender Jose Holebas committed a similar offence, getting on the wrong side of Van Persie and then clattering into the back of him as Giggs played a crossfield pass.
Referee Bjorn Kuipers pointed to the spot, and Van Persie did the rest, striking the ball right and firmly enough that goalkeeper Roberto could not stop it, despite guessing correctly.
Old Trafford was lifted but it was the second goal, scored in first-half injury time, that sent the place into rapture. With good reason, too.
Olympiacos’s failure to hold on until the interval spoke of their vulnerability, as did the sight of defensive culprit Ivan Marcano arguing with and pushing his captain Giannis Maniatis as United’s players chased back to re-spot.
The fans sensed which way the game was going and so, it seemed, did the players and manager. Moyes positively skipped down the touchline to greet them all in the dressing room.
Again Giggs was involved, picking out Rooney. Marcano won the tackle but failed to get the ball under control and Rooney hit a neat low pass for Van Persie to convert with style, getting in front of his man in the heart of the penalty area.
The scores were now tied. Not for long. Within seven minutes, United were ahead on aggregate and never looked back.
Danny Welbeck was fouled by Holebas and Rooney stood over the ball. He did a dry run past, allowing Van Persie to come in from another angle and curl it into the net.
It passed perilously close to Roberto on the Olympiacos goal-line but he was flat-footed. It wasn’t his finest night, to be frank.
It was a huge one for Moyes, though, whose gamble in giving Giggs his first start since January paid off handsomely.
As for Antonio Valencia, it is fair to say he played Olympiacos with one eye shut after an early collision with Joel Campbell left him looking as if he had dropped his guard against Floyd Mayweather.
Yet, Van Persie aside, the hero of the night was David de Gea. One goal from Olympiacos, remember, and United would have needed four to progress, and De Gea saved his team on three occasions, much to the obvious exasperation of the Greek contingent in the Old Trafford directors’ box.