Champions League: United Boost To Celtic Cause
Posted November 7, 2008on:
GLASGOW: Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United could pave the way for Celtic to join his side in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Scott McDonald kept the Scottish champions’ hopes alive in Group E.
The United boss had to endure a tense evening at Celtic Park on Wednesday before Ryan Giggs’ late equaliser cancelled out Australia striker McDonald’s sublime first-half strike to leave the two sides tied at 1-1.
That ensures United will advance to the last 16 barring the inconceivable combination of a defeat in Villarreal in two weeks’ time being followed by a four-goal defeat at home to Aalborg in their final match.
Celtic’s hopes of a winner-takes-all showdown with Villarreal here next month depend on United winning in Spain as well as them improving on their woeful away record by taking all three points from Aalborg in Denmark in their next game.
But Ferguson gave them grounds for encouragement by indicating that he would be sending a strong side to Villarreal in pursuit of the points they need to be sure of topping the group.
“We want to win the group, so Celtic don’t need to worry about that,” pledged the Scot, who admitted that he felt his side were headed for their second defeat here in the space of three years.
“Celtic are good enough to get that second spot, no question about that.”
Shunsuke Nakamura’s glorious free kick proved decisive on United’s last visit and McDonald’s 13th-minute effort, a deftly cushioned lob over Ben Foster after 13 minutes, was in the same league.
“I made the point before the match about Nakamura scoring a fantastic goal when we played here two years ago and they go and score another fantastic goal,” Ferguson said.
“The boy has shown great control and composure. It was a great strike.”
Celtic boss Gordon Strachan, who declared himself too drained by the evening’s drama to contemplate his side’s remaining matches, also showered McDonald with praise for the way he has coped in the absence of his injured fellow forwards Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Georgios Samaras and Chris Killen.
“It was a really calm finish,” Strachan said. “What he has done over the last month is phenomenal when you think he has lost all of his regular striking partners.”
New Straits Times