THE questions and concerns were valid at the time. Game by game, Malik Tillman has allayed them and answered them.

The points raised by the punters and Press were not shared by the players and the patience shown - both by Tillman and to Tillman - is paying off at present. Time will tell if Rangers reap any rewards in the long run, though.

Right now, Michael Beale certainly is and Tillman's influence and impact were once again imperative at Ibrox on Saturday. His two goals, one in either half, were the standout moments on a largely forgettable afternoon and ensured that Rangers maintained their unbeaten Premiership run under Beale's guidance.

It was only natural that Tillman would be the main talking point post-match. That has been the case on several occasions this term, although not always in the glowing manner of Saturday evening or the handful of other matches where he has enhanced his burgeoning reputation.

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Tillman's talent has never been up for debate, yet there were periods earlier in the campaign where his work rate was. At a club where endeavour is demanded as a non-negotiable, the American found himself attracting the ire of a crowd that didn't need an invitation to vent their fury as Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side were woeful at home and wretched in Europe.

It is fair to say that Tillman has won over the majority and those who were sceptical about the merits of securing his services from Bayern Munich beyond the end of the campaign are now very much in the minority.

John Lundstram hasn't switched camps. It was in the aftermath of the 4-1 win over Aberdeen in October that he labelled Tillman as 'phenomenal' and expressed his wish for people 'to stick behind him, lift him up and encourage him' rather than calling for him to be 'dropped if he has one bad game'. Several months on, the Scouser was asked about Tillman once again.

“It’s alright saying it now, you were all slating him at the start of the season," Lundstram said following the win over United. “I remember coming in [to the press room] and saying, ‘He’s a young lad, just give him time’.

“He’s honestly up there with one of the best talents I’ve seen. He’s a top, top player.

“You’re all giving him the credit now but you weren’t as kind at the start of the season. But he’s a top player. Everyone has stuck with him and he’s showing it now."

So much of the talk around Tillman has centred on his future as well as his present. Beale has often been effusive in his praise of the playmaker, while the man himself has spoken appreciatively about what his time at Rangers has done for his career.

Rangers have first refusal on a deal to sign Tillman come the summer but new Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel will have a say in that scenario. So will the 20-year-old and his representatives and interest will surely be growing from clubs across the continent that will be fully aware of his upward trajectory at Ibrox.

Beale was 'positive' about the situation on Saturday and highlighted the 'fantastic relationship' he has with Tillman. It is an understanding that has certainly helped the midfielder in terms of his performances and Rangers must now hope it is the foundation for a future at Ibrox.

“His career is his own, he doesn’t need old me to come in and tell him what to do," Lundstram said. “You don’t need a draw to come to this club. The draw is there.

“If he wants to stay, he will. If not his future is bright.

“Does he look happy out there? Of course he looks happy to me.

HeraldScotland: Malik Tillman of Rangers celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the game during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Rangers FC and Heart of Midlothian

“I’d love him to stay. It’s his personal choice. It’s not really got anything to do with any of us.

“If he stays, then it’s great for all of us. If not, then we wish him well."

Tillman has emerged as the kind of figure that Beale could build a team around. The summer will be one of change across the side and securing the services of Tillman would be a statement of intent from the Ibrox board.

The German-born American internationalist is often a man of few words but others have had plenty of reasons to talk him up. His manager, of course, compared him to Michael Ballack.

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Tillman spoke a few weeks ago about what it meant to him to hear supporters serenading him with his own song and pointed to the physicality of the Scottish game as one of the main areas that he had to adapt to following his arrival here.

Tillman has undoubtedly been good for Rangers. Yet Rangers have, whether he remains next term or not, certainly been good for a player that has Champions League, Old Firm and cup final experiences to his fledgling CV now.

“It will have been huge for him," Lundstram said. "I think he’ll look back on this spell at Rangers, if he does go on to achieve massive, massive things in the game, and see this as a really important spell.

“I hope it’s a long spell. But if not I’m still sure he’ll go on and do great things - and I’m sure he’ll look back with fond memories."

The improvements technically and tactically are clear to see in Tillman's game. He has developed physically and mentally, too, and he now carries an expectation that would not normally be placed on the shoulders of someone his age.

This term has had its difficult moments. The Champions League was a bruising affair and losing at Parkhead and Hampden would have been times of soul-searching for Tillman.

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When he has been knocked down, he has got back up again. Now a hat-trick of must-win Old Firm fixtures offers an opportunity for Tillman to continue his rise and rise.

“It just comes with games and it comes with experience," Lundstram said. “When you get a bit older you get a bit more relaxed.

“Once you get games under your belt it’s just comes with confidence, and I think his confidence is oozing right now and he’s showing exactly what he can do.

HeraldScotland: Malik Tillman

“He’s an absolute pleasure to play with. You just want to give him the ball as much as you can. It’s the same with Todd [Cantwell].

“You want these type of players on the ball as much as possible. I just pass it to them five yards away and let them go do their stuff."

As the song goes, it was a case of give Malik the ball and he will score on Saturday. His tally for the season is now 12 goals and five assists but the numbers don't tell the whole story of how he makes Rangers tick at times.

The finishes on both occasions were as composed as clinical as supporters and team-mates have come to expect from Tillman. On afternoons such as this, having someone who can be a game changer and a match winner is invaluable for Rangers.

The plan was for him to operate close to Alfredo Morelos to give Rangers a physicality in the final third. Once again, it was Tillman that took the responsibility and came to the fore when Rangers needed him most.

Lundstram said: “We’ve seen how good a player Malik is from box to box but it’s the numbers he’s starting to get now [are impressive].

“I’m not sure how many it is for the season but I’m sure he’s got a few now. It’s huge when people see that, that he’s picking up number after number. It’s really good.

“Yeah there is [big potential] but let’s not put too much pressure on him. He’s a great player but it is encouraging."