The Celtic captain Stephen McManus will always remember the great European nights under Gordon Strachan he admitted yesterday.
The former Coventry and Southampton manager quit Celtic on Monday afternoon, 24 hours after Rangers had won back the Scottish Premier League title for the first time in four years. While the search for a successor goes on, with Tony Mowbray, Owen Coyle and Mark McGhee reportedly among the front runners, McManus remembered the influence Strachan had on his career.
Among three SPL title wins, a Scottish Cup final win and two Co-Operative Insurance Cup final wins, were two memorable seasons in Europe when Celtic twice reached the last 16 of the Champions League. Amid those campaigns were famous home wins over Manchester United and Milan and an exciting penalty shoot-out win over Spartak Moscow, as well as a double header against Barcelona.
Celtic failed to get through the Champions League group stages this season but McManus would not let that dampen his memories.
"The European success has been fantastic," he said. "Personally, I played three years of Champions League football under the manager and he's put a lot of us on the map during that time, and given us the chance to play at the highest level. We've all got a lot to thank him for and I've thoroughly enjoyed playing under him."
The Scotland defender thanked Strachan for taking him out of the reserves and turning him into a first-team regular. "The gaffer has been a massive influence on my career and I have a lot to thank him for," he said. "He gave me an extended run in the first team when he arrived in 2005 and he appointed me captain a couple of years later. The players are all sad to see the manager go because we've had a lot of success under him over the last four years.
"He's worked with a lot of players and has done so much for the club, but he obviously thinks it's time to move on and we all respect that. It's been a great four years. He's been different class and his record speaks for itself. Nobody can knock his achievements at Celtic. He's been superb."