SUPERCUPNI: Green light for Manchester United - Celtic showpiece

Manchester United will face Celtic in a showpiece curtain-raiser to this summer’s SuperCupNI in Coleraine.

The challenge game at Under-19 level is expected to be a sell out at the Showgrounds ahead of the week-long international youth tournament which features three competitions this year.

Manchester United fan Samuel Skegness and Celtic supporter Senan Divine

Manchester United fan Samuel Skegness and Celtic supporter Senan Divine

United made a winning return to the event last July when they defeated a Northern Ireland select 1-0 in a special challenge match at Ballycastle Road.

Nishan Burkat’s goal landed the silverware for tournament graduate Kieran McKenna’s side.

It marked a successful reappearance after two years away from a competition which has seen United teams reach 13 finals and win six titles in its 35-year history.

Now McKenna, who was appointed head of United’s U-18s two years ago, is happy to be returning to his homeland with another crop of potential Old Trafford stars of the future to defend their title.

The Fermanagh man captained Northern Ireland in the former Milk Cup Elite competition back in 2005 and played for his County in the Junior tournament four years earlier.

Celtic made their only appearance in 2016 when they contested a four-team Under-21 competition, reaching the final after a 3-1 success against Real Sociedad but ultimately losing out to Everton 1-0 in the final.

“We are honoured that both clubs have been hugely enthusiastic about the game,” said tournament chairman Victor Leonard.

“We are fortunate to have established strong links with both clubs over the years.”

One of the SuperCupNI’s founders was Coleraine-born ex-Celtic captain Bertie Peacock who was responsible for attracting Manchester United teams to the competition in the early years through his friendship with Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Celtic were extremely helpful to us when we were exploring ways to honour Bertie’s invaluable input into the competition following his death in 2004,” added Victor.

The game will be staged at Coleraine Showgrounds on Saturday, July 21, at 5pm.

The Northern Ireland v Manchester United game last year attracted a large crowd to Ballycastle Road and Tournament Organisers are expecting an excellent response to this year's curtain-raiser for what promises to be another week of fantastic football.

SuperCupNI 2018 continues with the traditional parade of teams through Coleraine town centre to the Showgrounds for a welcome ceremony on Sunday 22nd July.