United game is too soon for Strachan

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan admits the Champions League showdown with Manchester United has come too soon for his side.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan admits the Champions League showdown with Manchester United has come too soon for his side.

The Bank of Scotland Premier League champions stayed on top of the table with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Aberdeen.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink scored a deflected 79th-minute winner – his second in as many games for his new club – as Thomas Gravesen celebrated a winning debut.

Celtic will now go to Old Trafford on Wednesday for their opening Champions League Group F game.

But Strachan admits he would like more time on the training ground with his new-look squad, joking: “I would like to put it back a few months.”

Strachan added: “As a coach, you would like more time with the players.

“Some of them are not used to some of the terminology and I would like more time to work with them, but you have to get on with it.”

Vennegoor of Hesselink will have treatment on an ankle injury, while defenders Stephen McManus (thigh) and Gary Caldwell (heel) will also see the club doctors this week.

Strachan also hailed the impact of goalscorer Vennegoor of Hesselink after the win at Pittodrie.

He said: “He is a big presence – not just on the field but also in the dressing room.

“He does not say too much but what he does say is funny and he just loves his new team-mates and the relationship will get better.”

Gravesen has also been with his new team-mates for a short space of time after his move from Real Madrid just before the close of the transfer window last month.

Strachan smiled: “He will be a bigger goal threat than Neil Lennon and he was a bit adventurous at times. You cannot stop that enthusiasm.”

But Aberdeen boss Jimmy Calderwood played down the impact of Gravesen on his debut.

He said: “He was all right but did not win the game for them.

“I thought Barry Nicholson tracked him well but Scotland is not the easiest place to come.

“There have been lots of great players who have come to Scotland, like Trevor Francis and Ray Wilkins, and they had a problem adapting to the game here at first.”

But the late victory at Pittodrie will have done little to scare United ahead of Wednesday’s game.

Gravesen’s debut may have taken the major headlines but the Dane was overshadowed by Vennegoor of Hesselink.

The Holland international came off the bench to score the winner against Hibernian a fortnight ago before making the difference at Aberdeen.

Gravesen himself could have been celebrating a debut goal but for the timely first-half intervention of Dons captain Russell Anderson, who produced a great blocking tackle.

But, while the home side produced a fine defensive display for most of the game, Celtic created the crucial opportunity.

With 11 minutes left, Hoops midfielder Aiden McGeady made a run and found substitute Kenny Miller, who, in turn, picked out the former PSV Eindhoven man.

Vennegoor of Hesselink did not connect cleanly with the ball but a deflection off the unfortunate Michael Hart was enough to see it spin past Jamie Langfield.

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