Workmanlike application overcame stellar names last night, and the fate of a largely shackled Wayne Rooney (right) told its own story. Given his Irish heritage, the pre-match Parkhead atmosphere probably inspired him more than most. The 21-year-old has a Celtic cross tattooed on his arm, loves his folk songs and would have found nothing daunting about the rousing sea of green that this stadium always becomes just before kick-off.
Heck, Celtic even laid on the Irish supergroup, the Saw Doctors, as a warm-up act, albeit squashed in one corner behind an advertising hoarding rather than out on the park. The greying rockers' three-song set ended with an Undertones cover, and though Rooney's kicks are no longer teenage, the ditty did remind us that the prodigious form of his younger days has returned of late.
Gordon Strachan would have been aware that if you stop Rooney, you won't necessarily stop Manchester United, but allow him to score and you're almost certainly finished. Before last night, he had scored in 30 games for United, 29 of which had ended in wins for his side. The only time he'd scored and United had not won was in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham in December last year.
So to whom should the task of marking his mountainous talent be allotted? By chance, because Rooney was deployed wide out left, in the first half at least, it fell to Paul Telfer, 34, once of Coventry and Southampton. The last time he started against Rooney was in May 2005, when United - and Rooney - won 2-1 at St Mary's to relegate the Saints.
Yet as anyone who has ever listened to Strachan knows, he rates Telfer. A lot. He buys him wherever he goes as a manager. He points to him as the epitome of fitness and dedication. Last night, again, Telfer repaid the faith. Almost every time Rooney looked in danger of a spark of brilliance, there was Telfer to snuff it out. No, really.
After 11 minutes, a United ball swung in from the right was destined for Rooney but Telfer nicked it off his toe. In the 24th, Rooney, on the run, tried to cut in from the flank. Telfer stopped him. In between it required the over-eager attentions of Celtic's 19-year-old Dutchman, Evander Sno, to grab his shirt and pull his shoulder as he launched towards the box. Rooney did break free on occasions but he knew Telfer would soon be back, and how.
Ten minutes before the break Rooney dinked the ball to Ryan Giggs, who ran on goal. But who's this? Telfer, of course, to sweep the challenge away. Moments later, Telfer was up the right to collect a long pass, taking it round his marker (the tireless Rooney, as it happens) and pinging in a cross. Typical.Reuse content