THE buck stops with the manager. Michael Beale has been aware of that in whatever role he has held in the game and the level of criticism directed his way at present will therefore come as no surprise to the 42-year-old.

His time as a boss in his own right has been a case of rise and rise. This week, he will have to come to terms with the first real setback and the post-mortem of events in the Viaplay Cup final will focus as much on him as those he trusted to produce a performance and deliver the silverware.

Beale has been honest enough to admit his part in failings during his first weeks at Ibrox, offering self-critique for his team-talks, selections or tactical decisions. Questions will rightly be asked of his players but the mistakes from the manager were at the heart of a wretched afternoon for Rangers.


Beale had one big selection question to solve. There would have been anxiety amongst supporters when they saw the answer and their fears were then played out as Celtic dominated the midfield and controlled large swathes of the match.

It is easy to be wise after the event but it has to be said that the manager got it wrong and Nicolas Raskin should have been in his starting line-up. That call set the tone.

One of the points that could be made against the inclusion of Raskin from the start was valid. The Belgian has, after all, only played twice since a late cameo for his debut, which was his first action since the middle of November, and perhaps Beale felt he wasn’t quite ready for an Old Firm fixture.

He cited the performance in the win over Hearts as a reason for going with the same midfield of John Lundstram and Glen Kamara. To their credit, both were excellent that night but they strolled through a game where Hearts were over-reliant on Robert Snodgrass in the central areas as Robbie Neilson blundered by picking too many attacking options from middle to front.

As a result, that game cannot be taken as a barometer of the Lundstram and Kamara partnership or their individual levels. Neither have been at the standard required this season and the Finn, in particular, has done little on form to merit such a show of faith.

Raskin outperformed Kamara against Partick Thistle and Livingston and had earned his start. His introduction provided Rangers with an energy and intent they had sorely lacked, and it surely wouldn’t just have been the supporters that were left wondering what might have been.


It was evident early on that it simply wasn’t working for Rangers. Celtic should have taken the lead before Kyogo put them ahead and the timing of the goal was a real blow for Beale as the task became even tougher on the stroke of half-time.

When Lundstram, Kamara and Malik Tillman – who looked laboured and had no real influence on proceedings – were replaced 20 minutes later, they could have no complaints. The switches were being made regardless of the scrambled strike from Alfredo Morelos that gave Rangers hope and there was consternation in the stands that Beale hadn’t acted sooner.

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Few would have expected three changes to be made at the break but sticking with the plan and the personnel who had struggled so much in the first 45 minutes sent the wrong message. When the second goal arrived, it was no surprise that Celtic scored it and the game was all-but up at that moment.

Was the triple substitution – as Raskin, Ryan Jack and Todd Cantwell were introduced - an admission that the wrong team was picked? Or was it a delayed acknowledgement that it just wasn’t working?

If it was the latter, then that had been evident for some time. The break was a chance for Beale to be proactive in the situation and giving those who had failed to produce an opportunity to rectify their mistakes didn’t pay off.

Beale repeatedly spoke about the need for midfield reinforcements throughout the January window and he got his men in Raskin and Cantwell. Sunday was the kind of occasion they were signed to impact but they only got 25 minutes when Rangers were chasing the game and needed fresh impetus.


The introductions of Raskin, Jack and Cantwell made a difference to Rangers. In the end, it had no bearing on the final result.

Rangers needed to strike in the minutes after Morelos reduced the deficit. Had a quickfire second goal arrived, the momentum shift could have seen Beale’s side force a late winner, never mind earn a shot at extra-time.

Morelos didn’t have a good game but his act of frustration as he made his way to the bench was well-founded in this instance. It was strange to see him replaced with 14 minutes remaining as Rangers became increasingly desperate for a hero.

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Beale has been forthcoming about the possibility of pairing Morelos and Antonio Colak together. Given the seriousness of the circumstances, would the closing stages of an Old Firm cup final not have been the time to try it out and hope for the best?

Rangers needed as many threats and potential scorers on the pitch as possible in those minutes and replacing one centre-forward with another added little to the attack. When the cup could have salvaged in a penalty box scramble, surely Rangers would have benefitted by having two strikers in the area?

The final alteration came with six minutes remaining. It wasn’t one that impacted the style of Rangers in the final third as one pacey wide player was replaced by another and Scott Wright took over from Fashion Sakala.

It might be nit-picking and it probably wouldn’t have made any difference in the end, but would Scott Arfield not have been the better option? A clever runner and clinical finisher, he would have asked different questions of a Celtic defence that were largely comfortable throughout.


A sense of perspective is always difficult to find in the aftermath of Old Firm defeats. It is easy for negatives to be exaggerated and positives dismissed, and Beale must have a cool, calm head as he assesses where it all went wrong and where Rangers go from here.

In the big picture, Sunday hasn’t changed that much. The futures of the majority of Beale’s squad are still up for debate and the work that must be undertaken come the summer – whether it is classed as a refresh or a rebuild – remains the same as this group come to the end of their time together.

Beale gathered his players on the pitch at the whistle and told them to ‘suck it up’. This was judgement day and Rangers had failed their sternest test as the momentum built in the previous 14 matches was undone over the course of 90 minutes.

The Scottish Cup now carries an even greater significance for Rangers and for Beale. He has made the team better and the signs have been encouraging, but they all count for nothing unless trophies are won.

Beale signed up for the project knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy, fully cognisant of the time, money and effort that would be required and one Old Firm defeat – as pitiful and as painful as it was – won’t have altered his view of where Rangers are and how they get back to where they need to be.

Time will tell how many of these players get the chance to make amends. Beale has that opportunity and Sunday must be a harsh lesson that ultimately benefits Rangers and their boss in the long term.