ALEX MCLEISH doesn’t need any reminding about how important the cup competitions can be when you are trying to establish yourself as a Rangers manager.

And that is why the former Ibrox boss believes a Hampden triumph this term is imperative for Michael Beale as he seeks to give himself the foundation for future success in the dugout.

Rangers will return to action after the international break this weekend with a Premiership clash against Dundee United. In all likelihood, it will be largely irrelevant come the end of the campaign regardless of the result.

Beale has done all that has been asked of him in the league since he succeeded Giovanni van Bronckhorst as a lengthy unbeaten run has been put together. It has, though, meant little in terms of the title race and the deficit to Celtic remains at nine points heading into the closing stages of the season.

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It is a gap that will prove to be insurmountable for Rangers, even though two derby fixtures remain in the top flight. It is the Scottish Cup showdown between the sides that stands out, however, as the Old Firm go head-to-head knowing that it will likely be a case of winner takes all in terms of the trophy.

McLeish won the League Cup and Scottish Cup following his appointment as manager in December 2001. The next season, he masterminded a Treble as Rangers turned the tables on Celtic in some style after a difficult end to the Dick Advocaat era.

Beale blew his chance to repeat Big Eck’s achievement after losing the Viaplay Cup final in February. The Englishman now has another Hampden opportunity that he cannot afford to pass up.

“He’s come in and he’s definitely got the backing of the players,” McLeish said. “They love working with him. Hopefully they can get to a level where the competition in the league is tighter than it is at the moment.

“I met Michael at a dinner a few weeks ago. He’s a nice guy, he has good ideas and he only wants the best for Rangers.

“In terms of advice, Sir Alex Ferguson’s voice always rings in my ears when someone asks that. His advice was always, ‘play with tempo’. That’s something Michael tries to do anyway.

“That (the Scottish Cup) is what we have got left and it’s imperative. I know a few of my pals over the last few years have said they don’t bother with the cups, they just want to win the league.

“I get that, but this Scottish Cup is helluva important. They always have been in my eyes. It would be a real boost for the club if Michael can go on and lift it.”

McLeish arrived at Ibrox from Hibernian more than two decades ago knowing that the SPL title was already well out of the reach of Rangers as Celtic romped towards the silverware.

Beale faced the same ominous prospect on his return to Glasgow. The damage had been done earlier in the campaign and an impressive record – including wins at Pittodrie, Tynecastle and Easter Road – hasn’t been enough to make a dent in Celtic’s lead.

“The league is going to be very difficult at this stage of the season, given the points deficit,” McLeish said. “It kind of reminded me of my own time at the club. When I first took over the league was pretty much gone.

“We had a couple of cups to win and we managed to do that. For this group of players there is a huge game ahead.

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“The team would need to claw back the deficit in the league and that means Celtic dropping a helluva lot of points. At this moment, they don’t look like doing that.

“Their consistency has been phenomenal. You can’t help that, you just need to keep winning. Rangers are probably one of a dozen clubs in the world who have to win every week.”

The coming weeks are all about momentum and medals for Rangers. One must be built and the other must be earned to change the Old Firm dynamic heading into the full first term under Beale’s guidance.

The 42-year-old has hinted at widespread changes to the makeup of the squad over the summer and supporters are expecting a plethora of players to come and go to give the group a fresh look and fresh feel for next season.

“I inherited a very good team,” McLeish said. “They hadn’t been at their level for a while and when we were at a dinner last year, Dick admitted that.

“He was tired and I was the new kid on the block. We got a really good start and the man-management of those players was very important.

“I think Michael has a good rapport with his players, that’s what I’m told anyway. That bodes well when the players are buying into what you want to do. In the end, everyone must give everything for the club.

“It’s hard for me to judge [how many players he needs]. Celtic have a physical, athletic side and that’s brought them some domination in the last few years.

“Maybe we need to look and see about bringing that kind of formula into our club.

“Sometimes with players it’s confidence and I think Michael is working really hard on that.”

McLeish was back at Ibrox and back in the dugout on Sunday as he took charge of a Rangers Legends side for an exhibition match against a World XI. It wasn’t to prove to be a winning return, though.

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Jermain Defoe bagged a brace for the hosts and Kris Boyd was also on target in front of a crowd of more than 25,000.

But Robin Van Persie netted twice as Jack Wilshere and Luis Boa Morte ensured Robbie Fowler’s side emerged victorious on an afternoon that saw heroes of yesteryear pull on their boots once again.

McLeish said: “It was a great turnout, we knew it would be. It’s a fantastic gesture too from the players from both camps to come and perform the way they did.

“Unfortunately, I’m not able to renew Ronald de Boer’s contract! Seriously, it’s great to come back and see everyone.

“It shows the affection these guys have for the club that they want to come back and play on occasions like this. Thanks to the fans who came to see us because other people will benefit from it.

“It’s always great to come back, you still get a buzz because it brings back the memories.

“Walking out on the pitch you get that adulation. It was great to be back.”