Rangers urged to play it again like Sam

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The Independent Football

"That's it, I'm off home." With those words, Sir Alex Ferguson stood up and left the Ibrox press room late last Wednesday night. By home, he didn't mean just down the road in the tenement block where he grew up, but 250 miles away in leafy Cheshire.

Just as J-Lo is no longer Jenny from the block, so Fergie has moved on from his Govan roots. The trappings of the Manchester United manager's success are less tangible - respect and reputation - but that will not prevent them from being prized by the horde of Glaswegians who turn up on his doorstep a week on Tuesday.

There will be 5,000 Rangers fans at Old Trafford for the second helping of the Battle of Britain, and many share Alex McLeish's belief that the Scottish champions can stage a smash-and-grab operation. The real valuables inside the Theatre of Dreams are Champions' League points, and if the plunder for Group E riches is to be successful after United's 1-0 away victory, a neighbour of Fergie's could hold the key.

Sam Allardyce managed to guide Bolton Wanderers to success last season at Old Trafford, and McLeish has urged his Rangers players to copy that blueprint as they try to repair the damage done by Phil Neville's costly break-in at Ibrox. Rangers felt they missed an opportunity in Glasgow. "You don't get many teams who create six chances against a side like Manchester United," reflected McLeish.

"They are formidable at Old Trafford, especially in the Champions' League, but teams like Bolton have gone there in the Premiership and won. We might have a chance if we keep everything tight. It is a tall order, but we have to believe we are capable enough. We are not out of this yet, we still have a chance of qualifying." United, even with Ruud van Nistelrooy muzzled by Craig Moore, possessed greater quality than Rangers, but failed to to use it. They never killed their hosts off, and had Peter Lovenkrands' dancing run and raking shot ended up in the net the way it did against Stuttgart last month, Ferguson would only have been taking a share of the spoils home.

The Manchester United manager picked out the Dane as a real threat for game two. "With Lovenkrands' pace, you can always trouble sides," he said. "Rangers will be hard to beat at Old Trafford because they keep the ball well and have good footballers in [Mikel] Arteta and [Shota] Arveladze." Arteta received a quiet word of recognition from Roy Keane after the final whistle sounded at Ibrox. The young Spaniard showed he had the heart that McLeish demands of his players but, unlike Keane, he did not have anyone alongside him to share the burden of creativity.

That role would usually fall to Ronald de Boer, but Rangers are missing the injured Dutchman right now - and probably will, too, at Old Trafford.

Yet Arteta has a kind of naïve courage that only a 21-year-old would possess, and a belief in the ability that Rangers paid Barcelona £6m for in 2002. He cannot wait to sample the Theatre of Dreams. "We know we have to win at Old Trafford, but so do United to keep up with Stuttgart," he said. "They will have to be careful, and that will help us. It will be difficult, but we also thought it would be much more difficult against Manchester United at home, so we have taken encouragement from that.

"We have three very difficult games left, two of them away from home [the other being Stuttgart], and if we want to make the next round, we have to win once outside of Ibrox. But we cannot afford to miss as many chances as we did."

McLeish is hoping to profit from the damage that Manchester United and Stuttgart will inflict upon each other when they meet again at Old Trafford, even though he calls the German side the form team in Group E just now. "Maybe we were punching above our weight against United, but don't rule Rangers out just yet - my players will be trying everything to qualify." It might be a good idea for Fergie to lock away the family silver.