THE statistics make for pleasant reading. In European football, under Steven Gerrard, Rangers have lost only twice in 19 games.

The 4-2 win in Denmark against FC Midtjylland, a daft six minutes aside, was one of the best performances put in since the Liverpudlian began his managerial career with a home 2-0 victory against Shkupi of Macedonia.

This is a level of consistency Gerrard needs from his players domestically if they are to topple Celtic and, from the outside looking in, it’s a puzzle as to why this Rangers side have shown so much maturity in the Europa League when, in Scotland, they have thrown away points through naivety.

Gerrard has a habit of setting his team up well on their visits abroad. The way an Alfredo Morelos-inspired side took apart Midtjylland, no mugs as it so happens, all-but puts Rangers into the play-off and the manager was happy yesterday to reflect on a good night’s work.

He said: “The players deserve all the credit. We have shown a lot of strength and while we haven’t always been fantastic in front of goal or ruthless and clinical, we have been good in terms of being hard to beat.


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“When it comes to being back in Europe and wanting to do well in Europe, the players have got Rangers their respect back. Long may it continue.

“I probably didn’t envisage doing so well in Europe. There is still a lot of work to do. I did realise there was a lot to do and to be fair I have had strong backing to go and shape this squad, so it is capable of competing.

“I think the players are bright enough to realise that this club needs European football from a financial point of view. We are trying to do everything we can to help these players, make their environment better here and at Ibrox and we are trying to give them contracts that they deserve that make them happy and make their families happy but they are also realising that a big part of that is that they have to do well in Europe.

“And also, from a fans point of view, it is what supporting your team is all about – following them all around the world and being proud of your team. I think so far the players have put in European performances that the fans are proud of and the following we get has been sensational.”

Gerrard the player found his best form in the biggest games. True greats do that. Nothing really has changed. Yes, the league is the priority for reasons which you may have picked up on, but he does enjoy a night at Ibrox under the floodlights.

Gerrard said: “One of the reasons I made my decision to come here was because as a club it is very similar to Liverpool in many ways in terms of the buzz and my own void that I wanted to fill but it was for the chance to coach and be part of European football and those big nights.

“Every player I sit down with says ‘I want to play for Rangers in Europe’ and I always correct them and say, no, no, no, you don’t want to go and play for Rangers in Europe you want to go and play well for Rangers in Europe.”


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The mystery is why Rangers do play better on the European stage, to an extent, compared to the domestic scene. I say to an extent because it’s not always been great to watch but the team seems to be better at handling the sticky spells in matches.

Gerrard said: “Different teams hold different challenges for you. We are in a league where we are one of the strongest teams, so it is only natural that teams make life difficult for us by getting a lot of men behind the ball.

“For a lot of teams in this league a draw against Rangers is as good as a win so that is a different challenge.

“In Europe, teams have more confidence and belief that they can go and beat Rangers and they have budgets where they can buy players and arguably can have better players individually or with more experience than Rangers.

“When Rangers turn up they think they can come and beat us. Sometimes that plays into our hands and we can play players with real speed on the counter, people who can carry the ball and go and be a nuisance for teams.”

A decent run in the Europa League does not mean Rangers are a big name in Europe again but at least they now enjoy a presence, and at this stage of the campaign are a team many would be happy to avoid.

Either Poland’s Legia Warsaw or Atromitos of Greece are Rangers next opponents, they drew 0-0 in Athens, and while the Scots would be slight under-dogs, the would go into the play-off full of belief and rightly so.

Gerrard admitted: “We are competing against these teams and we are in different markets when we are trying to buy players and build squads. That is fact.

“But I took over and it was very difficult. It was very long and very flat after going out in the first- round qualifier to a part-time team. I think the club took a big knock from that. I think our journey last year got a lot of respect back and make the supporters proud again.”