|Celtic’s Marc-Antoine Fortune
attempts a cross while being
challenged by a United defender
With the roof open at the Rogers Centre, nearly 40,000 fans gathered on a humid Friday night to watch an exciting and competitive, yet clean game – a rarity as friendlies go.
“All of our games against Celtic over the years are competitive,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “The whole Scotland-England thing motivates both sets of players. It was never going to be an easy match.”
“It was just a period after Celtic scored where they got a bit of dominance over us and that was a period we had to get through. The second goal killed the game and really a fantastic goal, a marvelous bit of football from Berbatov.”
Berbatov Shines in Absence of World Cup Stars
|United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, talks
to reporters at the post-game
“He got the man-of-the-match and I think he deserved that,” said Ferguson. “There’s no question about it, his performance was excellent.”
“In the second half there were some fantastic moments he produced,” added Ferguson. “It underlines the one great factor, that class he has, you can’t take that away from him. No matter how many people have certain criticism of him, it doesn’t come from our camp. Because when we see that we know we’ve got the right player. A fantastic performance at times tonight.”
United were playing without some of its biggest stars either due to injuries or because they were given time off to rest after playing in the World Cup. The most notable names missing were likes of Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Ji-Sung Park, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.
However, Ferguson still had plenty of firepower at his disposal for the match including veterans Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Berbatov, as well as Edwin van der Sar in goal. Young, rising star Nani, who was ruled out of the World Cup with an injury, made the trip but was not in the lineup. He did, however, take the time to sign autographs before and after the game.
|United’s Berbatov is all spun around
after scoring the game’s opening goal
In the 34th minute, Berbatov did extremely well to control a pass from Diouf inside the box. He then turned and fired a shot past Celtic keeper Lukasz Zaluska into the far corner to put United up 1-0.
Celtic created very few chances in the first half but nearly tied the game in the 44th minute when Charles Mulgrew drilled a rising shot off the outside of the post.
Celtic Steps Up Game in Second Half
Celtic made one change to start the second half – manager Neil Lennon brought on Georgios Samaras and the substitution nearly paid off immediately. Samaras, who played for Greece in the World Cup, thought he had the tying goal when he headed in a cross in the 49th minute, but the goal was disallowed since he was ruled offside.
|United players can only watch as the
ball goes past van der Sar on Samaras’
Later in the half, Smalling hauled down Celtic’s Marc Crosas in the box leaving referee Silviu Petrescu no choice but to call a penalty. Samaras stepped up calmly and made no mistake as he buried the shot into the top right corner to even the game at 1-1.
With the goal, Celtic began playing with more confidence and started to take the game to United. Even the outnumbered Celtic supporters began chanting “Celtic” and seemed to temporarily drown out and silence the United fans.
In the 75th minute, Marc-Antoine Fortune had the opportunity to put Celtic on top but his bullet shot was stopped by van der Sar. A short while later, the talented Berbatov made a perfect cross across the face of the goal and a charging Danny Welbeck poked the ball past Zaluska to make it 2-1.
In the 86th minute, United sealed the game when Tom Cleverley’s shot deflected off Celtic defender Darren O’Dea past Zaluska. The Celtic keeper was furious after the goal and was visibly upset with his defender’s deflection.
After the match, the United players took a tour around the pitch to salute all their fans.
Both teams will now travel to take on MLS club teams – United will travel to Philadelphia to take on the expansion Union while Celtic will head west to play the Sounders in Seattle.
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Contact Aman Dhanoa at [email protected]
Photos courtesy of J.P Dhanoa