Mixed reception for Ferguson at Ibrox 'farewell'

Alex McLeish would like Barry Ferguson to stay and help Rangers secure a place in the Champions' League on Wednesday, but the manager may not get his wish now that the pursuit of his captain has become an auction.

Rangers revealed yesterday that two other English Premiership sides have joined Blackburn Rovers in the race for Ferguson and if the bidding war becomes fierce, it is likely to prevent the Scotland midfielder playing in the vital third qualifying round, second leg, away to FC Copenhagen.

Liverpool and Everton are reported to have stated their interest, following Rangers' rejection of a £6m offer from Blackburn. McLeish has accepted that he cannot change Ferguson's mind about staying at Ibrox, but said after the 5-2 defeat of Hibernian on Saturday: "If Barry has to leave, I know he would want to go out on a high and get us into the Champions' League."

It is doubtful if potential buyers will share that desire. Ferguson's thinly-disguised farewell on Saturday received a mixed reception from the 49,000 Rangers fans, some of whom jeered their captain, while others stated he should not have played at all.

"I am the one who makes that decision," said McLeish. "Is he supposed to not play until he leaves? Barry knew he would receive flak and he handled it well. The more we can get for him, the more I can spend and I am sure Barry would like the club to benefit it he does depart."

McLeish admitted the scoreline, which kept the champions at the top of the Scottish Premier League, was "hard on Hibernian". Twice Rangers were behind to goals from Ina Murray and Tom McManus, who then missed a penalty, before Michael Mols and Mikel Arteta struck swiftly after the hour. The substitute Chris Burke added another late on.

Celtic were given a run for their money by Partick Thistle, as James Grady cancelled out Paul Lambert's early opener, only for Alan Thompson's 43rd-minute penalty to secure the victory at Firhill, ahead of Wednesday's Champions' League tie with MTK.

Dunfermline moved into third following their 2-1 win at Aberdeen.

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