Celtic passion play deepens Ferguson's pre-season woes

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The Independent Football

Having placated supporters and officials on one side of the Atlantic by pledging to field a much stronger team against Celtic and Milan here, Sir Alex Ferguson threatened to upset their English equivalents by omitting leading players from the Community Shield match against Arsenal on 8 August. If that happens, he will risk the sort of defeat suffered against a Celtic team rejuvenated by the return of their manager, Martin O'Neill.

The traditional fixture between the league champions and the FA Cup winners is now little more than another pre-season friendly. Manchester United have to play a European qualifying game either two or three days later and Ferguson said: "If it's the Tuesday we'll certainly not be playing a lot of first-team players against Arsenal."

In their final tour match against the Italian champions Milan in New Jersey tomorrow United chase a first victory after losing to the rejuvenated Scottish champions on the day that one newspaper devoted five pages to "Celtic in crisis". Defeats by Chelsea (4-2) and Liverpool (5-1), and Henrik Larsson's departure created an air of gloom, but O'Neill's arrival seemed to lift it.

Celtic deserved the 2-1 win ina match with much of the passion that had been missing from previous games in the Champions World series. John Hartson and Chris Sutton launched into a United defence featuring the combative Gary Neville and Roy Keane in a 3-5-2 system. Neville took a back-heel in the most vulnerable of places from Hartson, who was booked for it. Sutton sought retribution on United's Chris Eagles, who lit the touch-paper in the second minute by steaming into Alan Thompson. The resulting gashed ankle should keep Thompson out of Celtic's opening Scottish Premier Division game against Motherwell on Sunday week.

Sutton scored from a penalty after mistakes by the 18-year-old American Jonathan Spector, and after Alan Smith headed his first goal for United, Craig Beattie won the game with his fourth in three games here.

Keane, was particularly disappointed to lose and made his feelings known in the dressing-room. Ferguson said: "It was a far more competitive game and there was an edge which you expect when you play Celtic." O'Neill added: "We looked a bit more organised and to beat United is a feat in itself."

Goals: 1-0 Sutton (9, pen); 1-1 Smith (34); 2-1 Beattie (70).

Celtic (4-4-2): Hedman; Agathe, Varga, Valgaeren (Laursen h-t), McNamara (McManus, h-t); McGeady (Sylla, 63), Lennon (McBride, 84), Petrov (Wallace, 63), Thompson (Pearson, 4); Hartson (Beattie, 63), Sutton.

Manchester United (3-5-2): Howard; G Neville (McShane, 68), Keane, Spector (Chadwick, 84); P Neville (Bardsley, 63), Djemba-Djemba, Eagles (Forlan, 68), O'Shea, Richardson (Jones 68); Smith, Bellion (Giggs, 76).

Booked: Celtic: Hartson.

Referee: K Stott.

Attendance: 55,421.

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