Great Scots!

NOV 10 — The top story in the world of football over the past week has been Celtics’ outstanding achievement in the Champions League group stage tie against the mighty Barcelona on Wednesday night in the city of Glasgow.

The Scottish side’s win was even more remarkable as they came close to shutting out Lionel Messi & Co altogether, that is, until the world footballer of the year’s injury-time strike.

All credit to the former European champions — Celtic were the first British club to win the European title, way back in 1967 — for putting up a fight where many a star-studded team had parked the bus against the likes of Barca. Yes, you Chelsea, and not just once.

At least the Bhoys in green hoops have a history worth talking about compared with teams that bought their success. That, and the passion of their fanatical support, is what carried this team through a night of trepidation against the Spanish giants.

One illustrious member of that passionate Celtic fan base is, of course, legendary rock star Rod Stewart. I have to admit it was very touching seeing him in tears at the end of the game. The joy of victory had him overcome with emotion.

It also reminded me of his concert I attended in Singapore in 2009. The stage was all decorated in green and the Celtic crest featuring the shamrock leaf covered a large part of the white stage floor. That is a passion for football we do not often see among the rich and famous compared with the stars of movies and music at NBA games.

Carrying on, but still on the same Scottish track, the other big news of the week was about another Scotsman, although it came out of the city of Manchester.

Alex Ferguson is finally getting the statue he so rightly deserves for all that he has done for Manchester United. Setting aside the first five years of his career at the club, his past 21 years has been one of unprecedented glory…for any club in history. That total of 26 years in charge has seen boys among MU supporters become men, have their own kids, who then continue the support for the same man and his ever-changing band of players.

Such a legacy is the dream of many a manager. And to think, he came so close to retiring from management about 10 years ago. Any MU fan who can even begin to doubt Ferguson’s ability to lead the club, when their team starts to show some weakness, deserve the lean years that will eventually come when he takes a final bow.

It is not likely to happen soon though, based on how his club have slowly reached the summit of the English Premier League this season. It is only 10 games in, but MU has been able to capitalise on Manchester City’s jittery defence of the title and Chelsea’s distractions.

Today, the Red Devils take a trip to the midlands to face Aston Villa at Villa Park (1.30am, tomorrow morning). This has been a very happy hunting ground for Ferguson over the years.

One needs to go back to 1995 for the last time that Villa beat MU at home, in any competition. The statistics also show that in more than half of the matches played since then, Villa have ended the match unable to even notch a single goal.

With the Villans currently languishing in 17th place, it makes the task even more daunting for the home side. The only chance of a draw coming out of this game is if MU suffer from some post-Champions League blues after their come-from-behind win in Braga, Portugal on Wednesday night.

The incentive for Ferguson’s men will be the chance to create some breathing space between them and the blues duo of Chelsea and Manchester City, who both play tomorrow night. Man City is at home to Tottenham Hotspur, while Chelsea host a still-poor Liverpool side.

All four had their European exploits in mid-week too, with Spurs and the Reds playing on Thursday night in the Europa League. It is hard to see Liverpool bouncing back from that defeat and the long journey deep into Russia where they played Anzhi Makhachkala.

Chelsea just could not have asked for a better time to face Brendan Rodgers’ men, especially with the recent history between the clubs.

Spurs, meanwhile, will be hoping to claim another scalp in Manchester. It is a tough call this match but the quality should show among Man City’s star line-up for a narrow win.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.



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