Berg stresses Rangers potential

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The Independent Football

The Rangers defender Henning Berg believes that the Ibrox club operates on the same level as his former employers Manchester United.

Such a statement will raise eyebrows on both sides of the border, especially as United beat Rangers home and away in the Champions' League this season. Last season's Treble-winners are not even the form club in Scotland, Celtic having established a huge lead in the Scottish Premier League title race.

But Berg, who also won medals with Blackburn, insisted that the club's problems - poor form on the pitch and massive debt off it - should not distort the true picture.

"With no disrespect to Blackburn, Rangers are a massive club and I would definitely say as big as Manchester United here in Britain," he said.

"Obviously United have a bigger support outside the UK but the supporters here at Rangers, the tradition and the winning culture make it such a fabulous place to be. I believe they are on the same level."

United supporters had taunted their rivals during the 3-0 Champions' League win at Old Trafford. But Berg recalled that the first game at Ibrox, which United won 1-0, had been much closer. "I will never forget that night," he said. "That was a moment that I will look back on and think, 'I really played in that game'.

"Not only that but I really enjoyed the match and although we lost, it was a fantastic occasion. United won but I think we gave a good account of ourselves and were a little bit unlucky."

Berg was also adamant that Celtic and Rangers would do well if they were allowed to join the Premiership. "At the moment Rangers' and Celtic's finances don't compare to the Premiership teams because they don't get the same sort of television revenue," he said.

"But the other Scottish teams are struggling, with several of them in administration, even though the Old Firm are in the SPL so I don't think the excuse that they can't survive without us washes any more.

"So from that point of view I would let Rangers and Celtic go down south because I really think they could hold their own in that League."

Berg has played in both Old Firm derbies so far this season and is hoping to play a part in the remaining three before he retires at the end of the season.

But while a Glasgow derby qualifies as one of football's biggest fixtures, the Norwegian named another match as his most memorable local dispute in his lengthy career.

"Obviously the Rangers v Celtic derby is one of the biggest in the world, but having said that they play each other regularly," he said. "I was lucky enough to be involved in a Blackburn against Burnley clash back in 2000.

"We hadn't played each other for over 17 years and although there were only 20,000 people, the ground was full an hour and a half before kick-off and it was really mad."