Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha called for his club to be “humble” in acknowledging the gulf between his side and Celtic following a second slaying inside a week at the hands of the Scottish champions.
The 5-1 battering at Ibrox yesterday, following on from the 2-0 victory in the Scottish Cup semi-final, was a fifth victory for Brendan Rodgers’ men in six confrontations between the pair this season – the other meeting ending in a draw. Yet, despite the dismal nature of his two derbies, the Portuguese coach still ventured he could make the Ibrox club competitive against Rodgers’ side next season.
“We need to make a lot of changes, we are very keen to reduce the difference,” said Caixinha. “The difference is totally evident to anyone who hasn’t even watched today’s match. It is [though] possible to bridge the gap.
“We need to do it and we need to be humble too. You need to recognise the size of the gap that exists. I do believe we can reduce it and that’s what we have to work towards.”
Caixinha believed that, despite Celtic being far from flattered by their largest winning margin in an Ibrox league game, his players showed more than during their meek display at Hampden. And he accepted he should be judged by these latest derby dumpings, and not just when he has conducted a squad overhaul this summer.
“We played well but I am to blame,” he said. “I just have one thought, it is my total responsibility. The players tried to do their very best, they had a fantastic attitude and they raised their level. Things didn’t go we were supposed to have planned so I am the man responsible.
“I saw more from my players this week, the way we started the game was in that direction. You need to judge me all the time. For things that are not going in the right direction I am responsible and I always will be.”
The direction of travel has been upwards for Celtic under Rodgers, with the Irishman believing the authority demonstrated by his team at Ibrox a reflection of improvements that leave Celtic only a Scottish Cup final win away from a treble and only five games from the first ever unbeaten domestic league and cup season in Scottish top flight football history.
“They’re right on it,” Rodgers said of his team. “I said when I came in my job was to build a team who could go into any stadium without fear and play. And obviously this is one of the great rivals for Celtic, so for us to come here and show that? We had a couple of moments, like the goal at the end, which typify it.
“It’s the team’s first year, they are evolving and improving. There’s no way they were going to be on holiday after last week.”
One man who now will be on holiday with be captain Scott Brown. The 31-year-old is suspended for the club’s next two games and Rodgers was always going to give Brown a rest in this period because his summer off-season will be abridged as a result of Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against England on 10 June, only a month before Celtic’s first Champions League qualifier.
“I’ve told him to take the wife and get a break from it,” said Rodgers. “We will have him back in and ready towards the end of the season.”