Written by – John McIntosh
After Sunday’s dismal performance, the players and manager have been criticized heavily and this is definitely justified. The performance was sadly just another usual effort for us this season where we have played poorly, usually our team grinds out the victory by either persistence or the other team getting tired near the closing stages & then we capitalise. However, Raith Rovers matched our fitness – probably looking the fitter team, had a game plan and stuck closely to it. Whereas Rangers had one idea: punt the ball to Jon Daly which did not work – no surprise there when he has no one in and around him.
Now I have been very critical of Ally McCoist following this game having voiced my doubts about his managerial ability for well over a year but what I want to focus on is whether we have a hope in hell chance against Dundee United? Not only do they have a more talented squad – they have little, if any injury concerns while we are missing Cammy Bell, Lee Wallace, David Templeton, Lewis Macleod and Andy Little. These are some of our best players so this is a big blow but amazingly I believe we can beat them.
Now this might be myself having blind optimism but if we play the ball on the ground, pass the ball quick, move into space so that the player on the ball has many options going forward and also which is very key is to press Dundee United high when they are in control of the ball this limits the time on the ball that Dundee United will have.
Coming away from Scottish football I would like to mention two football teams who are renowned this season for high pressing and quick football – Liverpool and Atletico Madrid – both teams are excelling above expectations with bright and talented managers. The key to their game is their high pressing but not only that they hunt in packs then once they get the ball back high up the pitch either retain possession or start a quick counter attack.
If we do this against Dundee United I think we definitely have a chance but McCoist must instruct his team to NOT launch the long ball to Jon Daly. We look a decent team when we play quick passing and high pressing football. Notably this has not actually happened much this season but I would highlight the Dunfermline game in the Scottish cup where I thought we played very well.
If Jon Daly is to start please, McCoist must play Nicky Clark up front with him. Clark is a complete nuisance to opposition defences, always running around creating spaces and chances and they work well as a big man, small man partnership. I would like to see us play a flat 4-4-2 & my team would be: Simonsen, Smith, Faure, McCulloch, Foster, Law, Black, Gallagher, Aird, Daly, & Clark.
That team would have a good partnership upfront, while the two wingers in Fraser Aird and Callum Gallagher can attack United. Both are talented direct players with the objective to get past the full back and get it in the box, with Black sitting deeper defensively. Instruct him to play simple passes – no 35 yard De boer balls, with Law instructed to get forward as much as possible to help out. As solid as a back four as we can manage with Wallace being out and I am very comfortable with Simonsen in goal – I was at Forfar when he made THAT save. I felt he managed his box very well and was a vocal presence.
This is our biggest game in a couple years since the last Old Firm game at Ibrox. These players owe our amazing support one hell of a performance, I want blood, sweat and tears by the time they have come off the pitch – if they show the same commitment as the fans do then we will have a good chance.
Another aspect where I feel we can surprise and intimidate the United players is the Ibrox roar – Rangers have sold around 32,000 tickets for this game and we will dwarf the United/Celtic support on Saturday. Many of the Dundee United squad are talented but they are very young and inexperienced – most of whom will not have played in as big a game as this before.
Some away games this season and in the cup final our fans have been loud and brilliant but at Ibrox it has been very quiet minus the Union bears/Blue Order and on Saturday we must bring back the Ibrox roar.
Bring on Dundee United, battle fever is on, no surrender!