The last time Manchester United overhauled a 2-0 first-leg deficit in Europe was 30 years ago almost to the day, when Diego Maradona's Barcelona, no less, were beaten 3-0 in a Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final.
In 1984 there was no such thing as the Champions League, the European Cup was still a straight knockout for title winners and Liverpool were dominating it. Alex Ferguson was still in Scotland earning a reputation with Aberdeen when United, managed by Ron Atkinson, qualified for Europe by beating Brighton in a replayed FA Cup final. Barcelona, the Spanish Cup holders, were managed by César Luis Menotti, the World Cup winning Argentinian coach, and were so confident of progressing they hardly brought any supporters to Manchester for the second leg.
Arthur Albiston, the United left-back who supplied the cross for Frank Stapleton's winning goal, has no hesitation in describing the atmosphere inside Old Trafford that night as the most intense he has ever experienced.
"Because there were hardly any away fans the ground was literally full of United supporters, and they kept up an incredible level of noise all through the game," he recalls. "I've never heard anything like it before or since. I didn't think the crowd would be able to keep it up for 90 minutes but we were lucky enough to score goals at exactly the right time. Bryan Robson got the first two to put us level on aggregate, and that was all the encouragement they needed."
United, Albiston explains, felt a little hard done by at losing the first leg by two goals when they had dominated much of the game, and were confident they could redress the damage at home. "There really hadn't been much between the two sides at the Camp Nou," he says. "Barcelona got in front through an own goal by Graeme Hogg and we would have been happy enough with that result but they scored again with an unstoppable shot [from Juan Carlos Rojo] right at the end.
"When you have to come back from two behind it is tricky. You need to score but you have to be careful not to let one in because an away goal can change the whole picture. Fortunately we scored two goals fairly quickly and that settled us down. When we got the third it put us ahead in the tie for the first time and the fans really started celebrating, but even then we were aware the tie was not over and a goal for Barcelona would put us out. Bernd Schuster got a shot away towards the end that flew past me and I thought might spoil the night but it didn't quite hit the target. I think Gary Bailey might have had it covered anyway but it was a close thing.
Maradona didn't really figure in the game as you might have expected him to, I don't think he was fully fit. There was even a suggestion he might have needed pain-killing injections to play, but if that was the case it was a gamble that didn't come off. He hardly moved out of the centre circle. Maybe Barcelona thought he might be able to come up with just a moment of inspiration to change the game, but it just passed him by. We were the better team that night, as we had been in Barcelona. How we lost the first game by two goals I'll never know, but I remember Ron Atkinson telling us to stay positive and we would put it right. Ron was always a very upbeat, confident type of guy. He said we were good enough to come through in the second leg and he was right. Barcelona just couldn't cope with Robbo on the night. That was one of his best ever performances."
Like Albiston, Robson remembers the noise inside the ground as something he had not come across before. "It was shrill, deafening, and it just got louder as the game went on," he says. "The atmosphere that night was incredible, but it helped that we scored at the right time."
United were unable to continue their European adventure all the way to the final, going out in the semis to Michel Platini and Juventus, though they did reach the final of the Cup Winners' Cup under Ferguson seven years later, where victory over Barcelona in the final arguably signalled the start of the glory years more ominously than the famously narrow squeak against Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup final.
David Moyes is hoping the Old Trafford crowd will play its part against Olympiakos, having noted how powerfully the Greek supporters backed their team in Athens, though United have something to prove too. This time no one is saying they were robbed in the first leg, or that 2-0 was not a fair reflection of the game. It was one of the worst performances in recent memory, and United know it.
"As poorly as we played in Athens, I still saw signs that we might be able to get through the Olympiakos defence," Albiston says. "I don't see us going 90 minutes against them at home without scoring. I think there will be goals in the game and I think United can still win. It could be another great night in Europe but at 2-0 it is just as tricky as it was 30 years ago. You've got no room for error."