AN unstoppable Celtic 30-minute whirlwind swept Dundee United to a third successive defeat – and pushed Ronny Deila’s team five points ahead of Aberdeen in the title race.
The Hoops, after beating their Tannadice rivals in last week’s League Cup Final and knocking them out of the Scottish Cup in midweek, completed the happy hat-trick at Parkhead with a sublime first-half performance.
Celtic went in three goals ahead at the interval and, in truth, Jackie McNamara’s team were demoralised and there was absolutely no way back in the second period. Their support, after a busy week criticizing all things Celtic on social media, didn’t have the heart for the fight with approximately 150 showing up for their latest thrashing. Indeed there were more at the fabled CQN Corner today than in the away end.
Making the situation even more ironic was the fact that Gary Mackay-Steven, bought along with Stuart Armstrong from United in January, was outstanding as he scored the opening goal and teased and tormented his old team until he was substituted in the second-half.
No-one would have been surprised if the Tayside men had applauded the decision by Deila to relieve some of the pressure on them as their tormentor-in-chief left to a standing ovation..
The clever, tricky touchline operator scored one and had a hand in the other two goals as Deila’s ambitious side inflicted more pain on United.
Celtic went into the confrontation with the knowledge nearest rivals Aberdeen had shed two points in their 1-1 draw with Dundee at Dens Park in the 12.15pm kick-off.

Mackay-Steven opened the scoring and did most of the damage. He was ineligible for the Cup-ties, along with team-mate Stuart Armstrong, but he wasted no time in marking his return with a sweet strike from 20 yards to break the deadlock in the 16th minute.

He latched onto a pass from Efe Ambrose and anbled forward before unleashing a screaming shot from outside the box. Goalkeeper Radoslaw Ciernzniak was well beaten as the effort swept past him at his right hand side.
In the 33rd minute, GMS exchanged passes with John Guidetti before the Swede crashed a deflected shot from the edge of the box high into the net. After that two-goal salvo, United were on their knees and it was a canter for the champions.
Guidetti’s complete lack of celebrations hardly endears him to the Celtic support. If he’d rather be elsewhere he should just say so. It’s a privilege to wear the Hoops John, so please don’t abuse it.

After six red cards in the previous outings, this was a reasonably tame affair, but Paul Paton still managed to get himself booked just on half-time with a stupid swipe at former team-mate GMS.

Referee Kevin Clancy produced a yellow card, but Stefan Johansen wasn’t finished with the retribution and rolled the free-kick across the box to Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman’s shot was charged down, but Jason Denayer was alert in the six-yard box and took a touch before back-heeling into the net to put the tin lid on a miserable 45 minutes for the Tangerines.

Understandably, Deila’s team took their foot from the pedal after the restart with the game won.

Keeper Craig Gordon was called upon to make a couple of saves from sub Ryan Dow and defender Paul Dixon, but Celtic could also have added to their tally as they sauntered through to full-time without fuss to take another big step towards more glory.

Deila’s men are now 12 games away from the treble. In this sort of form, you wouldn’t bet against them. Dundee United’s season is over and Jackie McNamara will now be “under pressure” to try to get some wins out of his very average group of players as he attempts to save his job.
TEAM: Gordon; Ambrose, Denayer, Van Dijk, Izaguirre; Bitton, Brown; Mackay-Steven (sub: Commons 70), Johansen, Armstrong (sub: Henderson 76); Guidetti (sub: Scepovic 70).
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