WHEN Steven Gerrard was appointed as Rangers manager in the summer, he admitted he had missed the buzz of big games, the match nerves and the adrenaline rush of victory. On Thursday night, he felt that concoction of emotions once again.

It wasn’t just the best night of his time in the dugout, it was one of the most memorable of his glittering career. As he got a glimpse of the future at Ibrox, he rolled back the years.

Standing on the touchline against Rapid Vienna, he kicked every ball and appealed for every decision. When the goals went in, his celebrations said it all.

The 3-1 win was the finest overall performance his side have produced this term and the Ibrox crowd responded as the noise levels reached a deafening crescendo when Alfredo Morelos scored either side of James Tavernier’s late penalty.

“That was up there with the best atmospheres I’ve played in, whether it be at Anfield or other stadiums,” Gerrard said.

“That was right up there alongside them. That noise last night was incredible, it was ‘wow’. It was special.

“I was blessed as a player to have had that at Anfield for many, many years, we had many of those nights on a European level and sometimes domestically as well.

“Last night: that’s what I came to Rangers for. I want to be involved in European games and I want my players to be involved in those games because that’s what this club is about, big nights under the lights. It was an incredible game.

“Rapid Vienna were really good within the game, they played well. At half-time we thought ‘wow, if we get another half like that, what a game’.

“I said to the players ‘just don’t be on the wrong side of the result because it will be a tough one to take’.”

The atmosphere at Ibrox, especially in the final ten minutes or so as Rangers chased a winner and then celebrated two late strikes, was a throwback to yesteryear.

It has been some time since the supporters have created such a noise, or had a result like that to celebrate as the Gers moved top of Group G.

The visit of Hearts tomorrow is a very different challenge but it is one Gerrard knows Rangers must rise to on and off the park as they bid to kick-start their Premiership campaign.

“The players deserve all the praise,” he said. “From the first whistle to the last, we were immense. Every since player was top class.

“In a short space of time, to deliver a performance like that is impressive. It’s probably come a bit quicker than I thought but that’s what I’ve been looking for in terms of a 90 minute performance.

“It’s a different game [against Hearts], it’s a daytime game, a domestic game against Hearts.

“It’s a very important game for us, a massive three points, but I don’t think we can try and compare it to Thursday night because it will be different.

“But, yeah, we want Ibrox to be rocking again. We want a strong atmosphere but the team have to play their part in that.

“The challenge is can you match it or get close to that performance again. If we do, I think we will get the result we want.”

One of Gerrard’s first aims this term was to transform Rangers’ fortunes on home soil after a lamentable, record-breaking run at Ibrox last season.

Performance levels fluctuated and points were dropped with an alarming regularity as the Light Blues faltered in front of their own fans.

Now, though, Ibrox is becoming a venue where Rangers can thrive once again, and where opposition teams travel with trepidation rather than anticipation.

Gerrard said: “We are getting there. Over the course of the 90 minutes, that performance against Rapid is what we have been looking for.

“We were strong in every department and every player deserved praise from within that performance.

“If we can find that consistently, not just at Ibrox, it will give us a better chance of competing on the fronts we are involved in.

“I’m really pleased for the players, they deserved the credit because they went out and carried out our instructions.

“My job as their manager is to get that out of them more consistently. How do you do that? You have to manage them individually. You have to know when to push and prod and then to sit back.

“Every player is different. I would manage Connor Goldson differently to Glenn Middleton.

“I know they are all capable, I know it’s in there. If they can all deliver on an individual basis then it’s going to help the team.”

The win over Vienna came just days after a lacklustre showing saw Rangers drop three crucial Premiership points and lose to Livingston.

The reaction in the aftermath of that defeat was at opposite ends of the scale to the outpouring of joy from supporters following a thrilling night of European action.

That is no surprise to Gerrard. He will try and remain more middle of the road, though, to ensure he doesn’t get too high when his side win or too low when they don’t.

Gerrard said: “I had a pretty good idea. If the pressure’s not on Celtic, it’s on Rangers. If it’s not on Rangers, it’s on Celtic.

“That’s the way it’s been up here for many, many years and it’s not going to change.

“From a neutral point of view it’s probably welcome the likes of Hearts have started the season very strong, and Livingston doing very well.

“It makes the league very exciting for a neutral, but from my point of view it’s important that if we perform like [Thursday] night that I give the right praise out, because it’s deserved, but don’t go over the top and don’t get carried away.

“At the same time if the players have a day off, like Livingston, it’s important I don’t go and crucify them or get too emotional and react negatively too much. It’s just getting the right balance.”