WITH the notable exception of Roy Keane, the direction of transfers between Celtic and Manchester United has tended to be out of the former and into the latter.
Jimmy Delaney, Pat Crerand, Lou Macari, Brian McClair and Liam Miller all made the journey from Parkhead to Old Trafford and even Henrik Larsson did likewise, albeit via a detour involving Barcelona and Helsingborgs.
This summer, however, wing-back Saidy Janko and Tyler Blackett have both relocated to Glasgow. Janko signed a permanent deal with the Scottish champions and Blackett, whose arrival was announced during Saturday’s win over St Johnstone, indicated that he may also make a permanent switch to Glasgow.
A 21-year-old as comfortable at left-back as he is in the centre of a back four, Blackett could solve either problem position for manager Ronny Deila, who was still hopeful of landing other players last night.
Blackett, though, revealed that he had jumped at the opportunity to join Celtic, claiming that regular football was essential if he is to fulfil his potential. He made 12 appearances for United’s first team last season but spent too many games watching as an unused substitute and, while being in Louis van Gaal’s squad was exciting, he was aware that his inactivity was not helping him to progress.
“I’m desperate to improve and I need to play games and I knew that’s obviously going to be difficult at United because of all the good players they have,” he said. “I need to play regular games and at this young age it’s the perfect time to do that.
“I didn’t need much persuading as Celtic are a massive club. Saidy told me the club itself was good and the set-up around it was also good and my mind was made up.
“I also spoke to a few of the coaches I’ve worked with at United over the years, including Ryan Giggs, and they told me the move would be good for me.
“The coaching staff all had their input, but it was down to me to come here in the end. Everyone has spoken so highly of Celtic.
“There was no dilemma, I just want to come here and do well, I want to play games and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Football has a habit of throwing people together when they least expect it and Blackett could now find himself facing former United team-mates Robin van Persie and Nani when Celtic take on Fenerbahce in the group stage of the Europa League.
“The Europa League was most definitely a factor in my decision to come here,” he said. “It’s a chance to play in Europe and that’s a huge plus as we have some good games to look forward to. I saw the draw and was delighted with the teams we’ve been grouped with. It would be great to play against Robin. I know about him as a player but I’m sure he’d say the same about me. He’ll also knows my strengths and weaknesses. We’ll see what happens on the night.”
Starring in the Champions League for Celtic helped Fraser Forster earn a place in England’s World Cup squad last year and Blackett believes he can also attract the attention of Roy Hodgson while playing for the Hoops.
“I think I can take the next step with Celtic,” he said. “Over the years I’ve missed out on Under-21 squads because I’ve not been playing as many games as the rest of the boys. But hopefully now, if I get a run of games and play some good stuff, I’ll get a call-up. Fraser showed it can be done at Celtic. It’s achievable for any player if they put their mind to it.”
Blackett joined United’s youth set-up in 2002 and has learned from the best as he came through their ranks.
“Rio [Ferdinand], [Nemanja] Vidic, Patrice Evra… a lot of the defenders I’ve played with and trained alongside at United: they’ve always been people I’ve looked up to,” he said.
“At a young age, I played with Rio and Vidic in a few games. I was happy to have the privilege of playing with such great players. It was a phenomenal experience. One that can only help you in your future development.
“Things like that show you just where you have got to get to. You see what these players do on a daily basis. You can only improve alongside them.”
As for completely severing his ties with United, Blackett, who has two years remaining on his contract, was relaxed about the possibility. No one knows the future so what happens happens,” he said. “For now, my focus is on Celtic and trying to do well here. If I can get a good run of games and improve as a player, we’ll see what comes after.
“You have to assess the situation at the time plus whatever’s best for me and my family and everyone surrounding it. We’ll make that decision when it comes to it.”