Aberdeen 0 Celtic 1
A deflected late Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink winner gave Thomas Gravesen a winning start to his Celtic career – but the late victory at Pittodrie did little to scare Manchester United.
The Dutchman made an instant impact after his move from PSV Eindhoven after coming off the bench to score the decider against Hibernian at the end of last month.
Gravesen stole all the pre-match headlines with his move from Real Madrid but his debut was overshadowed by the Holland striker.
With 11 minutes left, Vennegoor of Hesselink’s deflected strike beat Jamie Langfield to give the Bank of Scotland Premier League leaders the points.
But the performance did little to frighten Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League Group F showdown at Old Trafford.
Gravesen and Vennegoor of Hesselink came in at the expense of Stephen Pearson and Kenny Miller, who scored the winner in Lithuania in midweek.
The Dane was in trouble with referee Mike McCurry after just 10 minutes after clattering Chris Clark on the touchline but the former Everton man was let off with a lecture.
But, moments later, Celtic were given a major scare at the other end as Miller threw himself at Clark’s header back across goal but the ball just evaded him.
The Hoops responded with a 28-yard shot from Aiden McGeady which whistled past the top-right corner of the goal.
Gravesen could have scored on his debut in the 21st minute after he charged down Michael Hart’s attempted clearance.
The ball broke to Richard Foster but he knocked the ball back into the path of the midfielder, who would have tested Jamie Langfield but for a brilliant last-gasp tackle from skipper Russell Anderson.
Vennegoor of Hesselink then linked up well with McGeady but the winger’s dipping effort was comfortably saved by Langfield.
The Aberdeen supporters were screaming for a penalty in the 37th minute after Diamond had been flattened by the Dutchman.
Diamond and McGeady were then booked by for clashing off the ball.
But the game again came to life in the 40th minute when Vennegoor of Hesselink beat Langfield to Shunsuke Nakamura’s free-kick to send the ball towards goal but Miller was back to clear off the line.
Vennegoor of Hesselink looked for a penalty moments later after Scott Severin’s challenge but got nothing.
McGeady could have been dismissed for a late tackle on Hart just before the interval but McCurry showed his lenient side.
The Celtic manager waited 11 minutes of the second half to make his first change with Miller coming on for the disappointing Maciej Zurawski.
Gravesen was booked for a high challenge on Clark, who was left clutching his head.
But the Dane was again granted a glorious chance to open his and Celtic’s account as Vennegoor of Hesselink cut the ball back into his path and his powerful effort was pushed away by Langfield.
But there was still time for Vennegoor of Hesselink to emerge the hero - although a big slice of luck was on his side.
McGeady made a run and found Miller, who picking out the Dutchman and his miss-hit strike took a deflection off Hart and ended up spinning past Langfield into the back of the net.
Gravesen almost got behind the Aberdeen defence again with four minutes left but he ran into the impressive Anderson.
But the home side were not beaten yet and McManus hooked the ball off the line before Severin blazed over.
Dyron Daal and Lee Naylor were both booked late on before Artur Boruc saved Severin’s free-kick.