McCulloch urges Rangers to take advantage of United's wobble

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Lee McCulloch believes now is as good a time as any to take on Manchester United as Rangers bid to keep their Champions League dream alive.

The Scottish champions host Sir Alex Ferguson's men at Ibrox next Wednesday hoping to go one better than the draw they earned at Old Trafford in their Group C opening match.

United have been unable to hit top form in the Premier League recently and McCulloch says the forthcoming clash could be Rangers' best shot at claiming the win they need.

The Rangers midfielder said: "With the way we play, I think we've got a system which could help us take something off United and it would be great if it was a win.

"I'm not sure if there's ever a good time to play them because they are such a strong side and have been for many years. But they've dropped a lot of points in the Premiership recently, probably more than they have for a long time, and that gives us a bit of hope.

"This is maybe a decent point at which to get them because they're in a similar situation to us where they've got a few injuries and they have had to rotate players.

"They are maybe going into games a little bit tired as well so, while they've got some world-class players, we have to work things to our advantage."

Rangers' hopes of claiming second spot were dealt a blow after a 3-0 defeat in Valencia, with the Spaniards now favourites to progress to the last 16 with United. The Turkish champions, Bursaspor, have yet to pick up a single point, meaning Rangers should at least finish third, but McCulloch is refusing to accept the consolation prize of a Europa League berth just yet.

However, he is well aware that a victory against United is vital for Walter Smith's side to have any hope of remaining in the Champions League beyond Christmas.

He said: "This is a home game which we would be looking to come out on top in anyway but it's a must-win match. If we're to have any chance at all of staying in the competition, we really need to take three points from United.

"If we win our last two matches, we'll still have a decent chance of going through to the last 16. Even then, we'll need a result or two to go our way elsewhere and, although this one coming up is against one of the best sides in the world, we can't think about that.

"We've got to take the game to them and try to get a positive result. A lot of things could happen in the group but we just have to think about ourselves. It's all about what we do and I'm sure the crowd will get behind us next week at Ibrox. They realise how good our opponents are and that we will be underdogs.

"If we can play the way we have been in Europe so far – a small period in Valencia aside – I think we have a chance of getting the result we are looking for. At the very worst, we are looking for third place in the group but we'll be aiming to do as well as we possibly can."

Meanwhile, Celtic's Thomas Rogne insists he is finally ready to prove he is good enough to be a success at Parkhead after putting his injury worries behind him.

The Norwegian defender has been plagued by a series of niggling injuries since his arrival in the east end of Glasgow last January and feels he has not yet shown his true form.

Sunday's Premier League win over St Mirren was only his seventh appearance for the Hoops and he admits he has plenty to prove to his manager, Neil Lennon, and the Celtic supporters. Rogne, who was sent off in the 9-0 win over Aberdeen on 6 November, said: "This year has definitely matured me. The injuries have been an experience – it's not a good one but it's still an experience.

"It is just like being a normal employee when you are sick. If you love your job it is frustrating when you can't be there. I want to go out there and show people what I can do and, when I do not get the chance to do that, it is just so frustrating more than anything. I don't feel like I've had my chance yet because there is always a setback. I haven't played a lot of games so I still have a lot to prove but hopefully I can do that soon. I played a few games last season and I think I did all right.

"We've also kept a clean sheet in the games I've played in this season but I still feel I have a lot to prove to the coaches, the players, to the fans and to myself. I know I can do better than what I've done so far."