THEY thought it was all over. Union Saint-Gilloise really should have known better.

The history and the evidence - built up over the last four seasons - was there in front of them. Understanding and respecting it is one thing, but being able to handle it is quite another.

It was the eleven men on the park that beat Union but the twelfth man off it more than played a part as the visitors crumbled in the Champions League, their two goal lead ultimately not enough as Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side won by three on a remarkable, raucous evening.

Of the last 32 European fixtures at Ibrox since 2018, Rangers have now won 22 of them. When the six draws and four defeats are analysed, they reveal many missed opportunities and stories of what might have been rather than a host of occasions where Rangers have been outclassed.

The Belgians are not the biggest name to be added to the Ibrox list but they are the latest team to fall. What is certain is that they will not be the last.

Villarreal, Feyenoord, Porto and Braga were beaten as Steven Gerrard set about restoring Rangers' reputation on the continent. From the farce of Progres, Rangers became a European force.

In less than 12 months, Van Bronckhorst has given supporters memories to last a lifetime and the comeback win that set up a play-off meeting with PSV carries a significance of its own for a team who have shown their talent and mentality on the biggest stage.

Borussia Dortmund should have been beaten but Red Star Belgrade and Braga, eventually, were taken care of on incredible occasions. When it comes to that night against RB Leipzig, nothing else needs said apart from the mention of it.

It has been chaotic rather than controlled at times, but the concoction is an intoxicating one as Rangers have punched above their weight and left many with bloody noses after landing knockout blows under the floodlights.

The Ibrox factor cannot be calculated or planned for. It is something which managers and players speak about yet cannot really put their finger on what it is, or why it inspires and spooks in equal measure as Rangers raise their game and the opposition lose their shape.

The crowd can be notoriously unforgiving and difficult to play in front of. The demands are incessant and the pressure visibly weighs on those who do not have the fortitude to handle it once they have pulled on that famous blue jersey.

It is all fine and well having the technical ability or tactical nous to play for Rangers, but without the mental strength that is a prerequisite of anyone that signs on there, Ibrox will chew you up and spit you out.

It takes time - a commodity that is in short supply - to become accustomed to the moans and groans that can act like a vice-like grip on the mind and only those of a certain character will be able to meet the expectations of a fan base who never accept second best.

Once you earn their trust, Ibrox is a very different place to play. When those on the park are unison with those off it, anything is possible and the energy that courses through the stands sends surges of adrenaline through the individuals and the collective as new heights are reached and the seemingly impossible achieved.

In some instances, the impact of the crowd serves only to inspire Rangers. In others, it can have a negative impact on the opposition as well as a positive one on those in blue.

Union were seen off by Van Bronckhorst's side, but they were also beaten by a 48,000-strong crowd that has seen its own reputation restored and enhanced in line with the strides forward that Rangers have taken over recent seasons.

The narrative around the words and actions of Karel Geraerts and his players has become a side show to the main event this week but it all played into the feeling that Rangers knew the tie wasn't over despite the nature of their 2-0 defeat the previous week.

John Lundstram labelled Union 'disrespectful' on Monday afternoon as he addressed the post-match celebrations at Den Dreef and what was seen as over-confidence from the Belgian camp as the likes of Siebe Van der Heyden and Teddy Teuma spoke about what awaited them in Govan.

Ironically, it was the full-back who broke Union's resistance as his inexplicable handball allowed James Tavernier to open the scoring from the spot. After Antonio Colak and Malik Tillman had won the game and the tie, Lazare Amani saw red as the visitors finished with ten men.

Union's words and actions weren't that far over the top and didn't really cross the line but Lundstram's stance added another factor to the occasion and his Instagram message of 'Chat sh*t, get banged' was lapped up by those who had bought into the siege mentality stance throughout a high-energy, high-stakes 90 minutes.

There will come a time when a deficit proves too difficult to overcome but there was never a feeling that Tuesday night was going to be that game and the conviction and drive of Van Bronckhorst's side is a sight to behold on this European stage.

Gerrard made Rangers believe they could compete with anyone once again. Now Rangers reckon they can beat anyone, especially at Ibrox.

If a group stage berth is to be secured this term, then PSV will surely need to be overcome next week as Van Bronckhorst attempts to take a lead back to his homeland for the defining second leg.

Rangers will respect PSV but they need not fear them. When they have Ibrox behind them, they shouldn't have any doubts about what is possible at home or abroad.

Union have taken their place on an illustrious list. Now Rangers have another European giant to topple.