AS Ange Postecoglou sat beside Michael Beale at Hampden on Tuesday, he gave off the air of someone who had got on the bus only to find the last remaining seat was beside their ex. That they had cheated on. With their best friend.

The Celtic manager may be a wonderful coach, an all-round stand-up guy and – normally - hugely engaging company, but I doubt he would make a good poker player. The typically straight-talking Aussie rarely leaves you wondering how he is feeling. As a member of the media pack periodically subjected to a withering ‘mate’ in response to one of my questions, I can certainly vouch for that.

It didn’t take a body language expert to sense that the shoehorning of the Celtic and Rangers managers onto the top table for a brief photo opportunity, prior to performing their separate press duties, wasn’t overly relished by either man.

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The atmosphere in the room was certainly a long way from the geniality of the West End coffee shop where Postecoglou broke bread on occasion with Beale’s predecessor Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and it comes to something when the prospect of getting on with a press conference seemed something of a relief to the Celtic manager.

That’s not to say there is personal animosity between Beale and Postecoglou. They are both a bit too grown up for that. But Beale’s decision to have a little passive-aggressive poke at Postecoglou through the press since his return to Glasgow has not gone unnoticed. We know this because Postecoglou often brings it up unprompted.

The ‘lucky man’ barb that Beale aimed at Postecoglou in relation to his budget may have been couched in warm words about his coaching ability, but the implication was that full credit for what Celtic have achieved since his arrival last summer has to be mitigated by the financial advantages he enjoys over his rivals. A factor often conveniently forgotten by those on both sides of the city as they laud their own long unbeaten runs against the have-nots, incidentally.

When asked about the form of Aaron Mooy towards the end of January, Postecoglou couldn’t resist an opportunity to have a pop back across the city.

"He has been great since the break,” Postecoglou said. “I am the least surprised about that.

"It’s one of these things in football that it literally landed at my doorstep. I knew what I was getting.

“Maybe you can use that term: I’m a lucky man.”

And after beating Kilmarnock in the semi-final of the League Cup, he referenced the remark again. When asked about a ‘fortunate’ ricochet that took an attempted Kyle Lafferty clearance into the Killie net via Daizen Maeda, he said: "I don't know about fortune, I am a lucky man, so maybe it is filtering through to the players as well.”

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It’s all good pantomime. And let’s be clear, while Postecoglou has clearly been irked by the inference made by Beale, he is hardly likely to be losing sleep over it. There seems no doubt though that Beale has managed at least to get under his skin, if even just a little.

For his part, Beale later moved to quell the furore around his statement by saying: “It wasn’t a slight on Ange. He’s a good coach and comes across as a fantastic guy.

"I like the way his team plays and it’s important we build a team to compete and go past him.”

Indeed, the phony war is almost over, and we will soon have an idea about how far along the road Beale is to achieving that goal.

What happens in the dugouts is an interesting sub-plot though, with the days of peace and harmony between the Old Firm technical areas seemingly a thing of the past. Even with the oft-combustible personalities of Neil Lennon and Steven Gerrard prowling those boxes over the last few years, it has all been very sedate of late.

In fact, the closest we have come to any sort of hullabaloo in recent times was when Beale was ordered off at Celtic Park when Rangers assistant back in 2019, delivering a tirade of abuse to an unmoved, stony-faced John Kennedy as he was dragged up the tunnel.

I’m not for a moment encouraging the sort of dust-up between Lennon and Ally McCoist (good pals, incidentally) that some years ago – incredibly – prompted a Scottish Government summit, and both managers will know they have a responsibility to be measured in their behaviour.

But a derby is a derby, and a few choice words between the dugouts or a frosty handshake at the end all makes the spectacle that much more intriguing.

What it all means in the grand scheme of things, and how much effect this manufactured needle will have on moving the needle in Glasgow’s eternal power struggle, is up for debate. Has Beale struck a blow of sorts with his bluster? Or has the Rangers manager shown himself prone to distraction, attempting to stir things with Postecoglou and even engaging in that most futile of pursuits, slinging mud with Chris Sutton?

What the players do on the field is what ultimately will matter. Will Celtic assert their dominance, or will a Rangers win spark what they hope will be a power shift? Luck will likely have little part to play. VAR on the other hand…well, that’s another column.