Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson thanked Paul Scholes for his late winner in Athens.
Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson thanked Paul Scholes for the late strike which ensured his team survived a spirited comeback to defeat Olympiakos Piraeus FC 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League at the Rizoupolis stadium.
United collected their fourth consecutive win in Group F to ensure their progress into the second stage of the competition before next week's encounter with Maccabi Haifa FC, while Olympiakos - who have still not beaten English opposition for 30 years - must now defeat Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Germany to stay involved.
But Sir Alex almost gave the match away when he took the wind out of his team's sails after Juan Sebastián Verón had hit the second goal - following Laurent Blanc's first-half opener - by bringing off David Beckkham and Ryan Giggs for Quinton Fortune and Luke Chadwick.
Indebted to Scholes
The Greek team took advantage to level inside five minutes with Lampros Choutos firing past Fabien Barthez and captain Predrag Djordjevic drilling in an equaliser, before Scholes won the match with a dramatic angled winner seven minutes from time. "I'd like to thank Scholes for getting us out of trouble," Sir Alex stressed. "It was a great performance. He has been improving ever since returning from injury and today he was superb."
The Scot then explained why he had made the changes. "It was necessary to give a rest to the players who have played a lot of matches already this season," he said. "That's why when we were leading by two goals I put on Chadwick and Fortune. They need first-team football."
Sir Alex is also hopeful that United can make it six wins out of six in the first group stage. "We have the opportunity to keep a 100 per cent wining record by winning all our matches," he said. "I'm very pleased with my players, who have secured qualification to the next round."
He also praised striker Diego Forlán, who played as his solitary striker because Ole Gunnar Solskjær was suffering from an ankle injury. "He worked very hard and had some good runs with the ball, which helped the team."
Caretaker Olympiakos coach Yianis Kollias, who stepped in when Panagiotis Lemonis was sacked after the Greek team were beaten 4-0 at Old Trafford three weeks ago, said. "When a team concedes three goals it is almost impossible to go on to win but even so I'm satisfied with my players as after they trailed 2-0 they managed to come back and equalise.
"I haven't been with the players long and I hope I will have the time to remedy some of our problems. Leverkusen won tonight [2-1 against Maccabi] and that means that even if we had drawn we have to go to Germany and come back with a positive result. I have faith in my players, who are very good and we still have the potential to qualify."