Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rangers v Manchester United

A break from the surreal squabbling over referee’s strikes and pointing the finger(s) of blame.

Tonight Scottish football is touched by the glamour of the Champion’s League and the might of Manchester United.

Glasgow could do with a bit of glamour actually. Lovely place, nice people. But even in a recession I’d have thought they could do better than hiring The Krankies to flick the switch on their Christmas lights.

The verdict of an English colleague who was there with a Spanish friend: Ian and Jeannette Tough have a unique brand of humour that loses much of the, well, humour in the translation. Seems it gains a lot of creepiness though.

Anyway the lights are turned on and the council budget is hardly touched. Which means Sir Alex Ferguson can expect red carpet treatment as he returns to Govan.

The last time he was about these parts Ferguson’s 2003 United side enjoyed a 1-0 victory in a fairly tight match that was swung by a fifth minute goal from Phil Neville.

Lot of water under the bridge since then and the gap between the two sides has grown ever more pronounced. Even Manchester United’s debt makes Rangers’ fiscal shenanigans look amateurish.

But shocks do happen. It was said that Rangers lacked ambition during this season’s 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. Except the ambition was to snaffle a point. That job was done. Walter Smith is happy to let others worry about his tactics.

United will qualify for the last 16 with another draw tonight but they’re unlikely to arrive at Ibrox happy to settle for a point.

Everyone in football seems to agree that they aren’t anywhere near their best at the moment. But they’re joint top of the English Premier League, top of their Champion’s League group and yet to concede a goal in Europe. It’s a successful enough kind of shoddiness.

Robbed of Bougherra, Webster and Edu through injury and with Sasa Papac doubtful Rangers are going to be forced to tinker. The emphasis will still be on defence but the available personnel will mean there will have to be some shift to attack.

Will that expose them to an onslaught? Wayne Rooney is likely to return to United’s starting line-up. But which Wayne Rooney? The highly rewarded passenger that he’s been of late or the player who would eat Kirk Broadfoot for breakfast in his pomp?

We’ll have to wait for the answer to that one. The ideal scenario for Rangers is that Rooney not only remains off form but also creates a sense of unease among his teammates. Such an outcome would send Ferguson apoplectic.

He’d never admit it about his old mate but the more annoyed Ferguson gets the happier Walter Smith is likely to be.

A tough ask for Rangers. They need another night of unlikely heroics, for United to show the hesitancy that’s marked their play this season. But United’s campaign has been dominated by a stubborness that suggests that, even if they are far from being Ferguson’s best vintage, they might be the squad most closely built in his image.

Off-form but determined, I’d expect United to get the win.

We’ll also get the first chance of the week to see a foreign referee strutting his stuff on a Scottish pitch. Massimo Busacca apparently once gave fans a “two finger salute.”

Unfortunately I think Mr Busacca might be a touch expensive for the SFA to parachute in for a weekend SPL game.

Still, if we’re going to be doing this on a budget it seems that The Krankies are both cheap and available.