A pair of late strikes proves the difference...
Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada
Kick-Off 00:00 BST
Manchester United started their first match in 50 years in Ontario’s capital with its wily veterans, but it was their young guns who closed out victory over Celtic.
A Georgios Samaras’ penalty cancelled out Dimitar Berbatov’s first-half marker, but late goals from Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley sealed a 3-1 for the Red Devils in front of a raucous Rogers Centre on a balmy summer evening in Toronto
United had the match’s first real opportunity in the 10th minute after superb movement from Ryan Giggs. Cutting down the left, the Welshman dinked into the Bhoys’ area and dropped a clever sidefoot to the trailing Gabriel Obertan. Obertan, heading into his first full season at Old Trafford, made a stride but fired wide of Lukas Zaluska’s goal.
After Celtic cleared upfield, Darren Fletcher intercepted an errant pass and headed back the other way. Spotting a streaking Mame Biram Diouf on the right, Fletcher went wide to the young Senegalese striker, who in turn sent a lovely cross to an unmolested Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian striker fired over.
As the half progressed, the Hoops began to assert themselves more offensively, but none of their drives forward found any real purchase.
In the 16th minute Charles Mulgrew sent in an inviting cross to the far post, but Fabio da Silva headed it out of harm’s way. Then Jonny Evans did well to deflect an effort from Marc-Antoine Fortune, after the former West Bromwich Albion man drove into the United box.
United would came close with a pair of successive chances near the half-hour. On the counter, Rafael delivered a beautiful long ball to Obertan down the right. Coming into the area sharply, Obertan drove wide with Zaluska coming onto to cut the angle. The Frenchman should have done better with an unmarked Berbatov heading to the net.
When the Hoops failed to move the ball down field, Berbatov came right back with a low drive from the edge of the area that went inches wide.
The third time would prove to be a charm for the Red Devils. Fabio da Silva did well to find Diouf just inside the Celtic box. Though he had room to shoot himself, he crossed to the other side of the area to Berbatov, who cut inside. Shaking his defender, United’s number nine drove a hard strike past Zaluska to give the Premier League side the breakthrough.
Neil Lennon’s men came close to restoring parity prior to the break. Both the gaffer and the player himself were incredulous in the 40th minute, when Fabio took down Fortune only yards outside the area.
Despite the protestations from Lennon from the technical area and a disbelieving Fortune, referee Silviu Petrescu waved play on, denying the Bhoys what would have been a free-kick from a threatening position.
Minutes later, Celtic had their best chance to square things when, from a narrow angle, Mulgrew sent in a hard drive that seemingly had Edwin van der Sar beaten, but it clipped the top of the near post and went out.
After the interval Lennon brought on Greek international Georgios Samaras and the lanky striker immediately signalled his intent.
After a Tom Cleverley foul, the Hoops seemed to have equalised off the subsequent free-kick. Samaras buried his free header into the back of the United goal, but the striker was flagged offside.
United attempted to double their advantage in the 55th minutes thanks to strong work from Obertan, whose impressive drive upfield and clever step-overs had the Bhoys’ defence on the backfoot.
Obertan found Diouf just outside the box, but he was taken down by Mark Wilson. The Red Devils squandered the opportunity to strengthen their hold on the match, as Berbatov sent in a weak shot right into the Celtic wall and it dribbled away harmlessly.
Following the ensuing corner, new boy Chris Smalling went from would-be hero to villain in a matter of minutes. As the Hoops were unable to clear the area, Smalling had a point-blank left-footer at goal, but was denied smartly by the trailing leg of Zaluska.
Coming back the other way, Smalling was unable to handle the run of Bhoys’ new signing Joe Ledley, as the former Fulham defender hauled down the ex-Cardiff City star inside the box. Petrescu awarded a penalty and Samaras made no mistake from the spot, resoring parity.
Celtic then have two great opportunities to take the lead. In the 64th minute, the lively Samaras had a strong run down the left. Bursting into the United area, he reached the touchline before sending in a cross, but one that was well over the head of the oncoming Morten Rasmussen.
Minutes later, Fortune beat Wes Brown on the right of the United area, but his low drive was saved smartly by a diving van der Sar.
The Bhoys would rue those missed opportunities, as the Red Devils struck twice in a period of five minutes to claim victory.
In the 79th minute Berbatov stormed into the Celtic area with an eye to goal. Seeing that Zaluska had committed to his shot, the Bulgarian dinked a pass across the box to Danny Welbeck and the sliding substitute’s left foot got enough of the ball to send it across the line.
Tom Cleverley, who starred on loan at Watford last term, scored United's third late on after taking advantage of some miscommunication in the Celtic backline. Getting a hold of the ball in the Hoops’ area, Cleverley’s strike was deflected, leaving Zaluska only able to watch the ball bulge the twine.
Van Der Saar; F. Da Silva, Evans, Smalling, R. Da Silva; Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher, Obertan; Diouf, Berbatov.
Zaluska; Mulgrew, Rogne, Wilson, O'Dea; Ledley, Crosas, Forrest, Brown; Maloney, Fortune.