McLeish picks up a familiar winning habit

Scottish Cup Final: Dundee 0 Rangers 1 Rangers' manager begins to resemble Old Trafford mentor as his side complete treble
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The Independent Football

Success can do strange things to people. If Alex McLeish had caught a glimpse of himself in the dressing room mirror at Hampden Park on Saturday before attending the post-match press conference, he might have done a double-take.

It was not quite Sir Alex Ferguson staring back at him, but there were vague similarities for the man who had just guided Rangers to the treble. Exactly 20 years ago, McLeish stood on the same spot and listened to Fergie's hairdryer strip away the pleasure of their Aberdeen team winning a Scottish Cup final just three days after they had overcome Real Madrid to lift the European Cup-Winners' Cup.

"Drained" was how McLeish described his emotional state. He may just have become only the sixth manager in Rangers' history to achieve the celebrated treble, but he was hardly swinging from the chandeliers after Lorenzo Amoruso's 66th-minute header allowed the holders to collect the world's oldest trophy for the 31st time.

Dundee, appearing in their first final in 39 years, had been anything but a piece of cake. Indeed, McLeish feared what might have happened to his players - who appeared to have spent their last drop of energy on the previous Sunday's thrilling climax to the championship - had they conceded an equaliser to Jim Duffy's side.

"If Dundee had scored in the 90 minutes, I thought it would be tough for us after that," McLeish admitted. "We were struggling, the players were tired and Dundee seemed to have much more energy. To be honest, now I feel flat.

"The players will get a deserved holiday. Like me, they know that at Rangers the pressure just goes on and on. The historical significance of what we have done has not sunk in. In fact, I have to continue and keep winning, football is such a fickle game, you cannot relax for a moment."

McLeish is shrewd enough to make that judgement for himself. Though he knows only too well how his mentor went from deity to dummy in the eyes of Old Trafford's most critical elements just a few short seasons after he had delivered the European Cup to Manchester United.

He admitted that Rangers' success this season owed a great deal to failure in Europe. An early Uefa Cup exit cleared the decks for a domestic assault. "We could never have won the treble if we'd had a good run in Europe," McLeish stated.

Success, as Fergie has probably told him, is fleeting. The title was not taken from Celtic until a penalty in the last seconds of the campaign, and on Saturday the margin of error was equally wafer-thin.

Had Barry Smith's volley not cannoned back off the inside of the post in three minutes, then Dundee might have been on their way to their first major honour since Alan Gilzean and co won the league title in 1962. Duffy's team offered the greater threat, while their young defence - Zurab Khizanishvili is a year younger than his 22-year-old companions Lee Mair and Dave Mackay - coped so well that McLeish had withdrawn his two strikers, Shota Arveladze and Michael Mols, well before the hour.

Indeed, Khizanishvili is on his way to Ibrox this summer to replace Amoruso, for whom an offer to join Blackburn Rovers has been gratefully received. However, the latter profited from the former's one mistake, conceding a foul near the corner flag which allowed Neil McCann to whip in the free-kick which Amoruso powered past Julian Speroni.

"Hopefully it will not be another 39 years before we are in the cup final," Duffy said later. "However, I think we have shown that we can compete with the best. We've got Europe to look forward to and I'm proud of my players for restoring our reputation."

Dundee (4-3-1-2): Speroni; Mackay (Milne, 77), Mair, Khizanishvili, Hernandez; Rae (Brady, 84), Nemsadze, Smith; Burchill (Novo, 70); Caballero, Lovell. Substitutes not used: Langfield (gk), Carranza.

Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Ricksen, Amoruso , Moore, Numan (Muscat, 69); De Boer, Ferguson, Malcolm, McCann; Arveladze (Thompson, 55), Mols (Ross, h-t). Substitutes not used: McGregor (gk), McLean.

Referee: K Clark (Scotland).

Bookings: Dundee: Novo. Rangers: Arveladze, McCann.

Man of the match: Amoruso.

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