If there’s an inescapable reality for Rangers fans as things stand, it’s that the current squad simply isn’t Rangers class, at least, not the one we recognise from bygone eras of the ilk of Walter, Eck, Advocaat or even 55.
The display v Utd was hardly horrible, but the era of Mark Warburton continues to this day with his vision of tiki tika still the basic model for boring sideways football which is supposed to play like classic Barca/Spain but really just feels like Barnet (no disrespect) half the time.
Warburton completely overhauled the Academy and club tiers to adopt his philosophy of 4-3-3 and by the time it was exposed as underpowered in the Scottish Premiership with insufficient players, it had imprinted itself in all our operations.
Even years later Steven Gerrard’s build bore all the Warburton hallmarks – two wingbacks who play as wingers, one striker up front, two low gravity wingers who flank and three men in the midfield.
While we’ve seen variations of this, such as 4-2-3-1, it still basically feels like the same thing all those years later, and how often do we find ourselves still saying to this day, occasionally ‘it’s like we’re still watching Warburton’.
And whether you completely agree with that or not, it’s absolutely clear Rangers simply are not good enough in current form to challenge for the title.
Celtic are relentless, and Rangers need to surpass, not match, surpass that.
The biggest clue is that while Michael Beale’s arrival stopped Celtic getting further away from us in the league, it didn’t catch them on any level, and they are still outscoring us completely.
The biggest frustration for fans is the likes of today – up against a Utd fighting for their lives, Rangers could only manage two goals. Now, before you yell ‘low block’ or ‘defensive unit’ to us, Celtic face the same thing themselves and still put a bunch of goals past them.
Our green rivals are a ridiculous 67 goals ahead of Hearts, in third. They’re 25 ahead of us. That is equal to a point, so they’re really 10 ahead, 7 at the moment.
That’s the difference – Rangers might be winning our matches, but this Celtic are winning theirs by a lot more goals. And we’re not putting cannon fodder to the sword ruthlessly.
Instead we’re trying to pass the ball into the net.
The squad? It falls short in many areas.
Look at the quality of yesteryear. While the Todd Cantwells, Nicolas Raskins and Ryan Kents do honour the quality we used to have, John Lundstram is no Barry Barry, Goldson is miles off being Carlos Cuellar, and Tav is no Hutton.
It’s not at that level any more, and anyone thinking otherwise is just deluding themselves.
That’s what is on Michael Beale to fix this summer. He needs to bring in players of Cuellar’s class, of Barry’s, of the Michael Mols and Giovanni van Bronckhorsts etc of this world – truly top Rangers players who won things and were clearly a class above anything else in the league.
He’s done that with Todd and Nico, admirably – and 9 more of them and we’d have a real fight with Celtic for sure.
But as things stand, we’re second best. It’s pretty plain to see – it’s not handwringing, it’s realism.