The midfielder was red carded the last time the sides met in January. With the score then goalless it threatened to put a dent in Celtic’s title ambitions. But the home side managed to secure a very late winner to let Bitton off the hook. Not that he felt particularly indebted to his teammates.
Anger at what he felt was the soft nature of the second yellow after a tangle with Declan Glass was the predominant emotion.
The subsequent suspension robbed Bitton of the chance to play against Rangers as well as taking him nearer sharing Scott Brown’s unenviable record of being the most red-carded Celtic player of all-time. He is now only one behind his former teammate’s total of seven. It doesn’t seem so bad when considering just how long he has been at the club. This is his ninth season and he is contracted for one more.
No wonder current manager Ange Postecoglou has paid tribute to a player he inherited when he arrived in the summer.
“He is one of the few experienced ones we had left,” said Postecoglou. “I think the way we play suits him being in midfield for us. For me it has been great for me to call on him particularly when you look at that number six role as it is a pivotal role.”
Bitton, for his part, is relishing being back in the cut and thrust of midfield. If he features in his side’s Scottish Cup quarter-final trip to Tannadice tomorrow he will have has played 36 times already this season – his most appearances in a single campaign since 2016-17. That’s even with a couple of suspension thrown in.
He was also sent off against Midtjyland in a Champions League qualifier. His teammates could not quite dig him out of a hole that night the way they did against United, when Liel Abada struck late on.
Bitton believes the most recent of these red cards was ill-deserved. Asked if he felt grateful to his teammates for going on to earn a potentially vital three points against United, he demurred.
“I wouldn’t say grateful,” he said. “First of all I don’t think it was a red card, you know we have seen some crazy decisions in this league.
“It is a game of football and we have seen a lot of times when teams have won games with ten players, even nine players.
“If I had stayed on the pitch I don’t know if we would have won the game so maybe my red card was better for the team.”
He is enjoying feeling trusted by his latest manager at Parkhead. Postecoglou is his fourth in a spell at the club spanning almost his entire 20s. He signed aged 21 and is now 30. Remarkably, he can contemplate the prospect of a fifth treble.
“You don’t really think about winning the treble on a daily basis,” he said. “You just come to training every single day preparing for the next match and taking it step by step.
“We don’t think too far, there are still two months to play in this season and we will try to do our best in every game.”
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