x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Berbatov brace condemns Celtic

Dimitar Berbatov scores two goals in Manchester United's 3-0 win over a depleted Celtic in the Champions League.

Dimitar Berbatov, left, and Wayne Rooney celebrate as Manchester United coast to victory over Celtic.
Dimitar Berbatov, left, and Wayne Rooney celebrate as Manchester United coast to victory over Celtic.

MANCHESTER // Strength can be measured in many ways, from a statement of intent on the pitch to the statements of admiration off it. Manchester United displayed both the strength in depth and the physicality to overpower Celtic on a day when the roll call of absentees, though lengthy, was still shorter than the register of stellar performers. The Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was sufficiently impressed to suggest that Brazil, Italy and Spain are inferior to United. "They are better than any international team," he said. Dimitar Berbatov's double, both marginally offside, could be disputed, but United's superiority was not. The 3-0 victory means United can now anticipate a place in the knockout stages, if the Celtic manager, and former United midfielder, is to be believed, they should retain their Champions League crown. "For the next couple of years," he said. "That's one of the best performances I've ever come across from watching European football. No team has won it [the Champions League] back to back, but we are using that pressure as an added incentive," said John O'Shea, who deputised for Patrice Evra at left-back. "For the opposition manager to say that shows how well we played." United were unrelenting and energetic to the end, helped by a largely youthful collective who lent a futuristic look to the side. Minus Rio Ferdinand, who had a groin problem, Jonny Evans filled in seamlessly. "He is a future centre-half of Manchester United," said Sir Alex Ferguson. "We have to give Evans the confidence that we rate him highly." Like Evans, the irrepressible Anderson is 20. "Anderson brings freshness and a bit of cheek to his game," said his manager. "He's got that Brazilian bit of devilment about him." The emergence of a still younger Brazilian, Rafael da Silva, appeared to influence Gary Neville. The oldest of United's outfield players by almost six years, Neville nonetheless appeared the epitome of the modern wing-back, marauding forward eagerly as if intent on proving he still possesses the stamina. His selection suggested Wes Brown, who has only started once since the loss to Liverpool, is being blamed for the setback at Anfield. There was further evidence of changing affections. Where Old Trafford once reverberated to the sound of Cristiano Ronaldo's name, now the dominant chant concerns Wayne Rooney. The striker has superseded the Portuguese with a series of goals and a more evident loyalty to the cause, but Ronaldo remains one to emulate. "Ronaldo is up for the Ballon D'Or because he scored 42 goals last season," Ferguson explained. "If Wayne gets to that scoring level he will be there as well." A precise shot from 20 metres brought Rooney his fifth United goal of the campaign. Just the 37 to go, then. rjolly@thenational.ae