Were it not for the well-publicised fact that the two clubs haven’t met competitively before, you’d imagine this as one of those floodlit glory nights from the 1960s. Celtic are a better side, now, than they give themselves credit for, and were simply unfortunate to run into Louis Saha in the mood.
Of course, the fantasy Manchester-Celtic game would have matched the ’66 United that saw Law, Charlton, Best and Crerand at their peak, against the Lisbon Lions. It’s sometimes forgotten now how quickly Jock Stein brought success to Celtic, or how completely. It’s forgotten, especially south of the border, that there were TWO European Cup Finals for the hoops..
Stein came to Celtic from Dunfermline and Hearts, having played for them earlier in his career. At Dunfermline, Stein had taken over a side about to be relegated: within a year all that was forgotten and he’d won them the Scottish Cup. It took him slightly longer to win Celtic the European Cup – two whole years, in fact, slow by his standards. Great managers have their impact straight away: they don’t learn their way up from mediocrity.
Stein, like Clough, managed Leeds United for 44 days during the 1970s.
That fantasy 1960s match, by the way, was a high-scoring affair, or would have been had it happened, and had it happened, you might have thought that it all turned on one controversial decision before Best’s extraordinary cameo in the dying minutes put the game on its head and took United through. (To a match against the Wunderteam or something. I really don’t know how these non-existent tournaments work. Perhaps they are round-robin affairs, also involving the 1890s Aston Villa side, who unexpectedly sweep all before them. But as I say, I really don’t know).