Walter Smith's task of reviving Rangers produced an emphatic and instant reward at Ibrox yesterday. Nine years after leaving the club, the celebrated manager worked his magic by turning a slothful team into a hungry one. The former Scotland boss will not be fooled by the scoreline that flattered his team but will be happy if it is imitated for the rest of the Scottish Premier League campaign.
Just six days after slipping out of the Scottish Cup to Dunfermline Atheltic, they routed a side that had already deprived them of five points this term with Kris Boyd netting twice.
Ibrox, despite the storm-lashed day had the air of optimism. Fans snapped up the programmes emblazoned on the cover with "The New Era - Walter plots the way ahead", to secure their souvenir of the return of the man who led Rangers to seven titles in a row in his previous spell. Ironically, the last League match Smith had in charge of Rangers in May 1998 was also against Dundee United. His first decision was to reinstate Barry Ferguson as captain, despite the midfielder being accused of trouble-making by the ex-manager, Paul Le Guen.
Ferguson's role in the affair has not pleased all Rangers fans and there was some criticism on radio beforehand. Smith's response was simple. "He is Scotland captain and the best man for the job." Smith eschewed the dug-out for the directors' box. and what he saw in the first half would not have pleased him.
Rangers were second best, not even summoning up a shot on target in the opening 20 minutes. In defence it was the same old problem - frailty. A mistake by the goalkeeper Allan McGregor allowed Craig Conway space to fashion a shot that was cleared off the line by Karl Svensson. Some 12 minutes later, Conway drew a save out of McGregor.
However, Rangers went in front seconds later, in the 23rd minute, with their first effort on target. Derek Stillie, the United keeper, was forced to come out of his box and slide into a challenge but succeeded in only knocking the ball to Charlie Adam, who conjured up a spectacular 40-yard lob but the offside positions of Boyd and Dado Prso raised the visitors' ire.
If Craig Levein was not frustated by that, then the United manager would have been bemused when Rangers struck again. Adam's cross picked out Boyd at the back post and the striker missed with an easy header before Chris Burke arrived to nod it past the sleeping markers. Boyd killed the contest in the 59th minute after Ferguson released Nacho Novo and clipped a low cross for the striker to sweep a shot beyond Stillie. Nine minutes later, Rangers widened their comfort zone when Boyd struck again, profiting from Ian Murray's fine run and cross.
Ferguson, though, was not satisfied. The Rangers captain made it 5-0 in the 88th minute with a searing run to meet Boyd's knockdown halfway into United's half. Ferguson kept his composure to round Stillie and slide in an angled finish.Reuse content