Martin O’Neill’s successes in football on and off the pitch are too many to count, but his management of Celtic from 2000-2005 is perhaps his most impressive managerial performance to date.

Winning three Scottish Premiership titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup in only five years, he was the club’s most successful manager since the famous Jock Stein. The Northern Irish legend also completed the domestic treble in his first season at the club – the first time Celtic had done so for over 30 years.

Yet O’Neill’s own highlights began with a much more personal affair, in his first Old Firm tie against the club’s historic rivals Rangers. Despite being thrashed by The Gers the last time the teams met, O’Neill led Celtic to an incredible 6-2 victory in what was just his sixth game in charge.

Speaking exclusively to UCFB, he said: “It was the manner of the game – we scored three goals in the first 11 minutes. If you can imagine Celtic Park with 60,000 people, 54,000 at that particular time were Celtic fans, the atmosphere was, I know it’s the old clichéd phrase, but unbelievably electric, it was phenomenal.”

It was a game which cemented the popularity of O’Neill amongst the supporters. He added: “To win your first game in front of your fans is something I will treasure for a long time. It was only in the last couple of moments in the match when we scored a sixth goal that I thought we’re definitely going to win here, because of the ability that Rangers possessed at that time!”

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O’Neill believes, on reflection, that the game was crucial for carving Celtic’s way to greater successes that season. He said: “it was a big moment for us, a seminal moment in that it gave us the confidence to keep going and that we did so until the end of the season and we were able to clinch the league.”

Yet O’Neill hasn’t forgotten the disappointments of his time at Celtic, even if they were few and far between. In 2003 European glory lay on the horizons, as the team reached the UEFA Cup final for the first time in their history. O’Neill recalls an agonizing game against a then-unknown Jose Mourinho, which Celtic lost 3-2 to Porto in extra-time.

O’Neill said: “I thought that we should have won the game, but I’m sure Jose would disagree! They had really fine players, but there was a lot of play-acting that day, like when the goalie feigned an injury in extra-time.”

He added: “It gave me an insight into Jose’s management that became synonymous with him. He’s gone on to become a terrific manager, who’s proved himself time and time again. I think his exploits in the game have been excellent considering he didn’t play; he never was a player but he sucked in all that information.”