A new continental flavour for ‘From The Terraces‘, as CaughtOffside’s reader-submitted coverage of the European competitions kicks off with Magnus‘ look at Manchester United’s opener against Celtic.
Celtic manager, and former Manchester United midfielder, Gordon Strachan on
Monday claimed: â€United are higher than international classâ€. Well, yeah.
Anyone who has been following the beautiful game for the past quarter-century
will recognize this as being true â€“ the premier club teams in the world are far
superior to the best international sides in the world. This is why Iâ€™m so glad
weâ€™re finally embarking on another European adventure. Forget the World Cup â€“
the Champions League is where itâ€™s at, where you can see the worldâ€™s greatest
players battling it out for the worldâ€™s most prestigious piece of silverware.
After Manchester Unitedâ€™s horrendous European campaign last year â€“ it was
downright embarrassing â€“ itâ€™s important we come out fighting against Celtic
today. Our team, featuring the combined talents of Wayne Rooney, Cristiano
Ronaldo, Ruud van Nistelrooy, et al., meekly bowed out of the competition to a
group of teams that should feel more at home in the Conference than in Europe.
An unmitigated disaster. It cannot happen again â€“ and let me make this
prediction here and now â€“ it wonâ€™t happen again. Not only that, I predict
Manchester United will rise from the ashes of their ruin and claim the
legendary trophy in Athens in May, in front of the noses of Barcelona, Chelsea,
Inter Milan and the rest of the pack. Okay, so maybe thatâ€™s a tad optimistic,
but at least we should beat Celtic tomorrow.
Hereâ€™s five reasons why.
1) No Scottish side has ever beaten United in a European competition. Whatâ€™s
more, Celtic have never won an away game in the Champions League. Now, statistics
donâ€™t really mean that much in football â€“ in the words of legendary Germany coach
Sepp Herberger, â€œthe ball is roundâ€ â€“ but it doesnâ€™t bode well for the champions
north of the border, does it?
2) United are again looking capable of not just beating teams, but annihilating
them. So far this season, weâ€™ve averaged close to three goals per game, and thatâ€™s
without our star striker and midfield maestro. Weâ€™ve got a perfect 4-0 win record in
the league, and, discounting a few tense moments against Tottenham, have rarely
looked ill at ease. Ryan Giggs is in the form of his life, and we are playing with a
confidence and swagger that will alarm teams far superior to Celtic.
3) The summer transfer movements of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill were
actually, contrary to public opinion, quite smart. Instead of being held to ransom
over decent players â€“ which seems always to be the case when those two are involved
â€“ we decided to stick to what we have, plus a couple of able recruits.
And what we have is not bad. A world-class goalkeeper, a watertight defence, an
attack minded midfield with a reliable enforcer in Oâ€™Shea, and the best forward line
in the Premiership, if not in Europe. Furthermore, after the departure of Ruud van
Nistelrooy to Real Madrid, the team is looking more balanced than in years, and
goals are flying in from everywhere.
4) Celtic are scared of us. Their midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura yesterday
admitted that they are â€œnot readyâ€ to face United, and that a draw at Old Trafford
tomorrow would be a satisfactory result for them. This is not the talk of a team
brimming with confidence. If we open well, the match could well turn into a rout.
5) Wayne Rooney is back. Having vented his frustration on the world by knocking
out Blackburn defender Michael Gray in a single punch, whilst seated (now thatâ€™s
seriously impressive) in a Manchester restaurant last week, Wayne is ready to be
unleashed on the Scottish champions. It should be a sight to saviour.
Therefore, our beloved Reds should win comfortably this evening. I predict a
3-0 win to kick-start our European campaign, the goals coming from Rooney (2)
and Saha. The Bhoys wonâ€™t know what hit them.