Negativity is the key for Rangers
It wasn’t pretty but few from the Rangers camp will care how they grabbed a point from Old Trafford on Tuesday night.
A goalless draw away to Manchester United should not have any negativity put towards it, although some will have a bash anyway.
Ten men behind the ball was hardly a surprising tactic imposed by Walter Smith – he did it all the way to a European final two and a half years ago. It wasn’t an exciting match, but neutral observers will have been aware of what was going to occur, and if they didn’t like it, they shouldn’t have tuned in.
It was a fantastic point from Rangers and a great start to their Champions League campaign. However, it’s only a start.
Last year, the draw away to Stuttgart was nearly as impressive and realistic hopes of qualifying out of the section were muted. Three crushing home defeats soon put paid to this.
Rangers, much like the Scottish national team these days, find it tougher to win at home than on their travels; when the onus is on them to open up and create. They simply do not have the necessary quality to do this. If they did, the lack of pace in defence would be cruelly exposed. Not just Davie Weir, but also Steven Whittaker, Sasa Papac and Kirk Broadfoot all have slow acceleration speed.
Playing a 5-4-1 is the right tactic away from home, but it will be hard to replicate the same defensive performance in Spain and Turkey. You see, there is no plan B. If Rangers lose the first goal then they have little to offer in an attacking sense. When chasing the game, as they did against Unirea and Sevilla last year, too many gaps appear and better players than SPL standard are able to use this space more effectively.
However, this tactic is the only one they can adopt. Valencia, despite losing key players over the summer, are still a decent outfit as proven with a four goal victory in Turkey. Bursaspor have spent close to a hundred million pounds in two years, so just from this you can expect Rangers to struggle.
The next two games – Bursaspor and Valencia at Ibrox – will tell us everything about Rangers ambitions. Four points from these will be an achievement, and it would put them in a great position to challenge for the top two positions. How Rangers approach these matches will be important to their chances.
Maybe five more backs to the wall displays will result in five more goalless draws and give Rangers 6 points, which will probably enough to secure third place and a passage through to the Europa League. Something most inside Govan will reluctantly accept.