'Team-mates starting to get Berbatov'
Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Dimitar Berbatov's double against Celtic as fresh evidence of the added dimension brought to his squad by the Bulgarian forward's sublime touch and intelligence.
Two close-range strikes from Berbatov helped United cruise to a 3-0 win over the Scottish champions and brought his United tally to five goals in seven matches since his 30-million-pound move from Tottenham.
But it was the striker's all-round contribution to the fluency of United's offensive game that had Ferguson purring with enthusiasm.
"He showed some fantastic pieces of football and the players are beginning to understand the kind of player he is," Ferguson said.
"They know now that when he takes the ball with his back to goal and turns he will produce a pass that means something. The weight of some of the passes he played was just terrific and he has five goals already which is a fantastic contribution."
Although there was a hint of offside about both Berbatov's goals, Celtic manager Gordon Strachan had to admit his side had been comprehensively outclassed by a United side for whom Wayne Rooney capped another outstanding display with his ninth goal in seven matches for club and country.
"I said to the players at the end of the game that we cannot be faulted for our guts and determination," Strachan said.
"Where we do fall down is not being anywhere hear as good as them at passing the ball.
"Over the last few years we've played against some terrific sides but I think that is the best I've seen."
Both managers agreed that Celtic had missed the presence of injured target men Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Georgios Samaras, which left the diminutive Scott McDonald to operate in lonely isolation up front.
"They can usually play a lot of balls up to the big strikers and they missed that," Ferguson said. "But saying that the speed and the switching of our play was really good and we kept getting in behind their fullbacks.
"We are in a good bit of form at the moment and that was a continuation from Saturday and the previous Saturday. There is a terrific momentum in the team at the moment."
The knocks that forced Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo off towards the end of the match ensured it was not an altogether positive evening but Ferguson's side now know a victory in Glasgow in a fortnight's time will be enough to put them through to the knockout stages with two matches to spare.
Ronaldo was left grimacing after being caught on the knee by flying studs while Berbatov suffered a hip injury, but Ferguson played down the extent of both knocks.
For Celtic, with just one point from their opening three matches, the chances of survival now look slim after what was their tenth consecutive away defeat in the competition.
The Scots' efforts on goal were restricted to edge-of-the-area strikes from Aidan McGeady and Gary Caldwell, both of which were competently dealt with by Edwin van der Sar before United's superiority finally yielded a goal on the half hour mark.
Gary Caldwell failed to clear Nani's corner decisively and, after John O'Shea had prodded the ball back into the six-yard box, Berbatov produced a deft flick with his back to goal to beat Boruc from what appeared to be a fractionally offside position.
United had further reason to be grateful to van der Sar when O'Shea sliced a Nakamura freekick towards his own net just before the interval.
But after Darren Fletcher had squandered a great chance in first-half stoppage time, the match was put beyond doubt five minutes after the restart when Boruc misjudged one of Ronaldo's dipping freekicks, palming the ball back into the centre of his goalmouth instead of around the post.
Berbatov tapped in the rebound and Rooney wrapped things up with quarter of an hour left, accepting Carlos Tevez's pass before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
"Unplayable" was Strachan's assessment of the England forward in his current form. "We tried everything we could to stop him. When you see players like that you just have to hold your hands up and say you've just seen a world class player."
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- That means they won't be allowed to leave their hotel rooms or practice for 14 days, creating a two-speed preparation period for the tournament. Other players in less rigorous quarantine will be allowed to practice for five hours daily.