THE assertion from Rangers manager Michael Beale that there was nothing between the sides at Ibrox as his men went down to a severely understrength Celtic was not the defence of his team’s performance he may have thought it was.

It is debatable whether Brendan Rodgers – had he had a fully fit squad to choose from - would have sent out that Celtic line-up in an early League Cup tie to lower league opposition.

If feeling slightly aggrieved to have lost out to a shadow Celtic team is the benchmark of where this Rangers team is, then Michael Beale’s problems may run deeper than even the most concerned Bluenose fears.

But that indeed is where they are. With the greatest of respect to the men in green and white that fought so gamely to emerge with a crucial victory, this may have been among the weakest Celtic team to win at Ibrox.

READ MORE: Michael Beale addresses furious Rangers fan reaction after Celtic loss

Despite not exactly quivering with fear about the qualities of Rangers, a huge rump of the Celtic support approached the match across Glasgow with trepidation simply because of the state of their own team.

Injuries, the loss of key personnel in the summer, and the players who were available seemingly struggling to come to terms with the tactics of returning manager Brendan Rodgers made Celtic second favourites even in the eyes of most of their own fans.

But even against a centre-back partnership of a shaky Gustaf Lagerbielke and, in fairness, an inspired Liam Scales, Rangers couldn’t find the net. Well, not without VAR rendering the act meaningless.

There will be grousing about the controversial call to rule out Kemar Roofe’s goal for a foul by Cyriel Dessers on Lagerbielke, but while that may have arguably altered the course of the game, it cannot mask the deeper lying problems with Beale’s Rangers team.

Steven Gerrard may well be owed many an apology right about now. When the Liverpool legend was the Rangers manager, any success he had was caveated by the widely held notion that Beale was in fact the brains behind the operation, the tactical mastermind pulling the strings behind the scenes while Gerrard was merely the frontman.

If that was indeed the case, then it is hard to square that with what his team are producing at the moment. Just what was the tactical plan at Ibrox on Sunday? To allow Callum McGregor the freedom of Govan? If so, his players carried it out to a tee.

There are huge question marks about over the summer recruitment. The squad rebuild required was a double-edged sword for Beale. On the one hand, it has bought him a little grace, being judged almost as if he too had arrived at Ibrox in the summer, and had not already managed 23 games for the club last season.

On the other, it meant that he had to face the critical early part of the season - where they would try to reach the Champions League group stage and face this early game against Celtic – while trying to bed in an entirely new attack.

The forwards who have been brought in, though it is early days, so far look short of the standard required. Cyriel Dessers again offered little, and Sam Lammers looks exactly like what he has throughout the course of his career, a tidy player who generally struggles in front of goal, as evidence by his glaring miss on Sunday.

The biggest question mark however has to be over £6m striker Danilo, with the Brazilian again warming the bench for the majority of such a massive match for his team. He hasn’t started a match since the away Champions League qualifier to Servette. If he wasn’t brought in at such significant outlay for matches such as the PSV humiliation in midweek and the game against Celtic, then why exactly was he brought in?

Beale's decision to invest so heavily in that area of his team, and neglect the need to source a centre-half who could remotely deal with a striker at the level of say, Kyogo Furuhashi, who now has six goals in six against Rangers, looks to have been a major error.

READ MORE: Celtic captain Callum McGregor puts on an Ibrox masterclass

Beale cannot say he hasn’t been backed, and maybe that is why the patience initially afforded to him by a famously impatient supporter base seemed to have run out when the final whistle blew at Ibrox.

Deafening boos at the end of an Old Firm defeat are hardly out of the ordinary, but the visceral reaction from the Rangers support suggested a disgruntlement that runs deeper than the frustrations of losing that single match.

Beale said in the lead up to Sunday’s game that the 90 minutes would speak for his team. And that it did, loud and clear.

There seems to be a mental weakness to this Rangers side when it comes to the big, must-win games. They have lost a number of them now under Beale, and the fact his team now trail a transitional Celtic side by four points will make the international break a long one.

He will likely get that break to stew on it and be handed the opportunity to turn things around given the financial backing he has received, but there has to be a marked improvement in both the style and the substance of his side if he is to win the fans back over.

Once they turn, and they appear on the brink, there is rarely any way back.