Ryan Giggs scored a late equaliser to earn Manchester United FC a point which moved the holders closer to the knockout stages and left Celtic FC still searching for their first victory in Group E.
With Celtic battling to save their UEFA Champions League campaign, and their guests one win away from potentially securing their progress in the competition, there was little to choose between the sides in Glasgow. Scott McDonald brilliantly lobbed the home team in front with 13 minutes played, and Celtic were six minutes away from defeating their English visitors when Giggs nodded in. United now need just a point to advance, while Gordon Strachan's men are realistically competing with Aalborg BK – their hosts on Matchday 5 – for third place and a UEFA Cup berth.
United carved the first opening of the game on nine minutes, when Barry Robson's crunching foul on Darren Fletcher resulted in a free-kick 25 metres out. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up confidently, but fizzed his drive marginally over the crossbar. Four minutes later Celtic were on the front foot, responding in lethal style with a sublimely executed goal. Gary Caldwell cushioned a header into the path of McDonald two metres inside the United box, and the Australian international striker did the rest – lofting a cushioned volley with the outside of his right boot over stand-in goalkeeper Ben Foster and into the back of the net to secure a dream start for the Scottish titleholders.
The Old Trafford outfit may have been somewhat taken aback by the early blow, but they replied by piling pressure on their opponents in search of the leveller. Rio Ferdinand went close on 17 minutes, and surely would have turned in a Giggs corner from four metres were it not for a last-ditch challenge from Celtic captain Stephen McManus. Dimitar Berbatov had struck twice when the sides met at Old Trafford a fortnight ago and, with United trailing, Sir Alex Ferguson introduced the striker at the interval in place of Nani, switching to 4-4-2 in the process. With their attacking presence increased, the away team almost equalised ten minutes into the second period. From another venomous Giggs corner, Nemanja Vidić headed the ball on to Berbatov, who flicked it goalwards only to find Shaun Maloney perfectly placed to clear off the line.
Celtic remained a threat on the counter, and from one such raid in the 61st minute they won a corner which forward Cillian Sheridan – like Foster, making his first start in the competition – headed a fraction over. Yet it was the Premier League club who looked more likely to notch the second goal of the match, and they finally made their pressure tell in the 84th minute when a swerving, 25-metre Ronaldo drive was parried by Artur Boruc into the path of Giggs who headed the ball into the empty net. Berbatov could have won it with the last kick of the game, only to drag his shot wide and leave both sides in contention for the last 16, albeit just in Celtic's case.
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