Man U downs Celtic in Rogers Centre friendly

Dimitar Berbatov was scorer and provider Friday night as Manchester United defeated Celtic 3-1 in a rare visit to Canada.

Dimitar Berbatov was scorer and provider Friday night as Manchester United defeated Celtic 3-1 in a rare visit to Canada.

The languid but talented Bulgarian striker scored the first goal and set up the second before 39,193 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Substitutes Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley also scored for the English powerhouse. Georgios Samaras replied for Scotland's Celtic.

Berbatov showed his class in the 34th minute, deftly controlling a pass from Mame Biram Diouf with his right foot before using the left to bury it in the net. Gabriel Obertan demonstrated skill of his own, riding a Celtic tackle to keep the attack alive and feed Diouf.

Celtic tied it on a Samaras penalty in the 61st after Wes Brown dragged down an attacker in the box. The United defence had been carved open and Brown had little choice.

Tying goal

The tying goal brought the Celtic fans to life at the Rogers Centre, which was almost filled in the first two tiers with some watching from the top level.

But Welbeck put it away in the 79th when the ball ricocheted back to Berbatov and he unselfishly fed Welbeck, who poked the ball past Lukasz Zaluska.

The Celtic 'keeper stopped another soon after as he got a hand to a  Federico Macheda shot that was destined for the corner.

But he had no chance in the 86th minute when Cleverley's shot changed direction after hitting a Celtic defender.

As one might expect from an a exhibition game, there were missed passes and flubbed opportunities. But it still proved to be an entertaining affair, even when both managers emptied their bench in the second half.

United had the bulk of the chances in the opening half before a largely red crowd, but Celtic kept trying to chip away.

Samaras came on to open the second half and scored in the 49th minute, only to have his headed goal off a free kick ruled offside. United could have increased its lead soon after but Zaluska somehow managed to stick a leg in front of a Chris Smalling shot.

Temporary grass surface

The game was played on a temporary grass surface harvested from Burford, about 100 kilometres southwest of Toronto, and transported via 18 tractor-trailers.

The turf, which seemed dry and a little slow at times, will be returned to Burford, where it will be tilled into the ground.

United was without its vacationing World Cup players — England's Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, France's Patrice Evra, Serbia's Nemanja Vidic and South Korea's Ji-sung Park — and a list of walking wounded that included captain Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves.

Mexico forward Javier Hernandez is due to join the team in Houston on July 27.

The United starting lineup was roughly split 50-50 between youngsters and veterans in the form of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, midfielders Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher, and Berbatov.

Fletcher captained the side.

The Da Silva brothers — Fabio and Rafael — also started, along with Jonny Evans, Smalling, Obertan and Diouf.

Subs get the call  

For the 20-year-old Smalling, a former Fulham defender, it was his first outing for the Red Devils. Celtic started new signings Joe Ledley and Charlie Mulgrew.

United brought on four subs to open the second half, including John O'Shea and Brown as Scholes and Giggs were given the rest of the night off.

Celtic forced van der Sar into action in the seventh minute with a comfortable low save off Marc Fortune.

In the 10th minute, United showed some glitz via the quick feet of Obertan and a backheel pass from Giggs. Obertan's shot went wide, however.

A minute later, Berbatov floated a header over the crossbar from a Rafael cross. Then Giggs unsuccessfully tried to lob goalie Zaluska, spotting the Celtic 'keeper off the line.

In the 30th, Obertan was wide again after a nice pass from Rafael put him in the clear. Seconds later, Berbatov misfired from the edge of the box.

In the 43rd, Celtic's Mulgrew hit the goalpost with a hard shot off a slashing run.

Scholes started the half slowly but then found his rhythm, spraying passes around the field.

In the warmup, Celtic was treated like the Washington Generals when they came out, although a pocket of green-clad fans showed them some love. United, the main attraction for most of the crowd, followed later to cheers.