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United vs Celtic: through the years

With only two months to go before a team of United legends take on Celtic, we thought we’d whet your appetite for the match by revisiting some epic European ties against the Bhoys.

| by Nathan Thomas

For two teams so successful and located in neighbouring countries, it may come as a surprise to learn that United and Celtic have only faced off against one another in competitive fixtures on four occasions, and all of those games came within a two-year period between 2006 – 2008.


Fittingly, for Scotland and England’s first European Cup winners, the games came in Europe’s premier competition – the Champions League. The maiden match did not disappoint.

Under the floodlights at the Theatre Of Dreams, it was United that emerged victorious in a 3-2 thriller, but it was Celtic who opened the scoring. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink swept an excellent finish past Edwin Van Der Sar to put the Glaswegians one goal to the good after 21 minutes. It wasn’t to last, however, as in true United style, the Reds turned the result on its head as a brace from Louis Saha and a close-range finish from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer secured the points for Ferguson’s men.

The other goalscorer on the night was Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura, whose stunning free-kick in front of the Stretford End left Edwin rooted to the spot. Two months later, he would repeat the trick, notching another excellent set-piece and helping the Bhoys achieve a famous 1-0 win against United.


It was a crackling atmosphere at Celtic Park, with Reds legend and former club captain Nemanja Vidic later describing Celtic supporters as the only crowd that left him feeling intimidated. “For the first ten minutes of the game, it was like they were breathing fire,” Vidic said back in 2019.


Two years later and back at Old Trafford – another stadium known for its raucous European atmospheres – newly crowned European champions United made light work of Celtic in the latest group stage game between the sides. One of our returning legends, Dimitar Berbatov, bagged his first European goals in M16, following hot on the heels of his first two Champions League goals for the club in the previous fixture against Aalborg. The Bulgarian no.9 notched goals number one and two, before Wayne Rooney capped a fine performance by cementing a comfortable 3-0 win.

Ahead of his return in September, we spoke to Dimitar about that night.

“If I remember correctly, one was an easy and uglygoal and the other was a tap-in!” he laughed. “They are good memories. Every memory I have that is connected with me scoring a goal, it's always a good memory.This is how strikers are.

“Celtic were always interesting to play, too. I used to really like them and their stadium – the atmosphere was unbelievable. It was crazy.”

Berba was to sample that atmosphere only a few weeks after his Old Trafford brace, when it appeared a repeat of the 2006 match was on the cards as Celtic led 1-0 late into the game by virtue of a first-half Scott McDonald lob. This was cancelled out in the 76th minute, however, when Ryan Giggs nodded home to secure an important point on the road for the Reds.

Eight years earlier, Giggs had become the latest United player to have his testimonial against Celtic following in the footsteps of our Legends team manager Bryan Robson and Brian McClair. Roy Keane completed the quartet in 2006 when Cristiano Ronaldo secured a 1-0 win for United in the Irishman’s testimonial. The games prior had all ended 4-3, 3-1 and 2-1, featuring goals aplenty, and we’re expecting the latest instalment of this fixture to be just as exciting, with rivalries renewed across the park.

All the proceeds from the game will go towards supporting youngsters across Greater Manchester and beyond, helping Manchester United Foundation to continue its community work and improving the lives of thousands of young people.

Tickets for the match on Saturday 7th September – kick-off 14:00 - are available now!