Rangers expect a daunting test against Manchester United in the Champions League
The word ‘READY’ is proclaimed on the Rangers club crest, yet as they head south for Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with Manchester United, the Scottish champions appear anything but.
Although Kenny Miller’s 90th-minute lob secured a barely deserved 2-1 victory at Hamilton on Saturday, which maintained their 100 per cent start to the SPL campaign, the sight of Rangers supporters streaming out of the ground prior to the goal encapsulated the mood – resignation, fear and trepidation.
There are no pre-match boasts emanating from Ibrox. Miller, whose 2004 goal for Wolves at Molineux sealed a 1-0 win against Manchester United, said: “We’re going to have to carry a lot of luck if we’re going to get a result like Wolves did that day, so fingers crossed.
“We have good enough players in our dressing room to hurt them (United), but that first 15-20 minutes is crucial. If we weather the storm, then we might have a chance of getting something.
“But we know we have to raise the level of our performance, not just one notch but three or four notches. I hate to say it, but if we don’t, we will be punished. It’s going to be backs to the wall.” Even prior to the unconvincing display at Hamilton, manager Walter Smith had voiced concerns that Rangers have not started the season ’with a proper edge’ and have been ’sluggish'. There was no visible improvement against Billy Reid’s team. Defensively, Rangers are chronically susceptible to pace, a frailty exposed by Nigel Hasselbaink, nephew of former Chelsea forward Jimmy, and the Portuguese twins Marco and Flavio Paixao.
An ankle injury to right-back Kirk Broadfoot makes him a doubt for Tuesday, but he had already been embarrassed by midfielder David Buchanan before being replaced by Ricky Foster, whose subsequent performance suggested he is already having nightmares about the prospect of facing Nani and Patrice Evra.
Positives? Miller has proven ability to score at every level for club and country, while goalkeeper Allan McGregor and midfielder Maurice Edu appear capable of shining against United.
But even Smith admits Tuesday will be a daunting experience for his team.
He said: “Any team in Europe going to Old Trafford might feel a bit of trepidation. It is maybe only the Real Madrids who can go there and think that they just need to turn up without producing their best performance.
“I think even our 4-1-4-1 formation might have to be tightened up a bit. We could go 4-6-0!”