Preview: Man Utd kick off tour vs. Celtic in Toronto
International Exhibition: Manchester United vs. Celtic
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
The match is the first of Man Utd’s five-game North American tour in which they will also play the Philadelphia Union, the Kansas City Wizards and the MLS All-Stars in Houston. They'll then head to Guadalajara, Mexico, to play Club Deportivo Chivas de Guadalajara.
This is Celtic’s second match of their tour, having already lost 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. The Bhoys will also play the Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field and Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon at Boston's Fenway Park.
What’s at Stake?
The term friendly doesn’t apply when English and Scottish teams collide, and this match is no exception. Both teams are in their preseasons, so while the stakes aren’t high, maintaining respect may be especially important considering Celtic’s recent loss to the expansion Union. Celtic are in transition and recently made a flurry of player transactions, including the signing of Mexico’s Efrain Juarez, in hopes of rebounding from their first trophyless season in seven years. They are also preparing to face Portugal’s SC Braga in the third qualifying round of next season’s UEFA Champions League.
This match is Man Utd’s first-ever in Toronto, so the Red Devils—who are already in the Champions league group stage—will be looking to put on a strong show on a temporary natural grass pitch before their legions of Canadian fans. Success against United has been rare of late, but with some of United’s top players resting from World Cup duty or nursing injuries, this may be the Scottish giants' best opportunity to beat their “old enemy.”
Both teams last met in a meaningful game on Nov. 5, 2008, at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, during the group stages of the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League. Coming off a resounding 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford the month before, Celtic opened the scoring early on Australian Scott McDonald’s 13th-minute goal. The lead would stand until the 84th minute when Welsh midfielder and long-time United star Ryan Giggs leveled Man Utd at one. Celtic finished last in the group with a record of 1-3-2.
Heroes & Villains
Man Utd’s Dimitar Berbatov vs. Celtic’s defense: Even in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Berbatov is still lethal and will pose problems for Celtic’s back line. The Bulgarian had 12 goals for United in 33 league matches last season and can create opportunities for himself and his teammates using his speed and playmaking ability. Celtic’s new-look lineup will have to be well organized to stave off Berbatov’s attacks.
Man Utd’s consistency vs. the changes of Celtic: Stalwarts Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are longtime United players who are the lynchpins of their team's style of play. They’re key to the club’s midfield strength and possession play and could create problems for the many new faces at Celtic who are just beginning to play together.
Stats that make you go “Hmm ...”
Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, 68, took over in November 1986 and has won more than 30 trophies for the Red Devils. The League Managers Association says there have been 969 managerial dismissals in professional English soccer since Ferguson was named United head.
He said it
“It’s great to be here in Toronto and all the players are looking forward to it. We’re excited to get our first game of the preseason after 10 days of training. All the lads are itching for their first game,” Man Utd captain and Scottish international Darren Fletcher told Reuters upon the club’s landing late Thursday night in Toronto.
Keys to the game:
- Can Dimitar Berbatov pick up the offensive slack without strike partner Wayne Rooney?
- Effectiveness of veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in the midfield and Edwin van der Sar in goal
- Revenge factor. Will retribution for the group stage exit in the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League at the hands of United be a motivator for the holdovers?
- Team cohesiveness and organization after the off-season signing and release of a flurry of players