Brendan Rodgers savoured what he described as an “extra special” victory over Rangers as he closed in on becoming the first manager in Scottish football history to win back to back domestic trebles.
Celtic swatted their Old Firm rivals aside with a thumping 4-0 victory in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, leaving shattered Rangers manager Graeme Murty to reflect on what he admitted was the lowest point of his football career.
The result has almost certainly put paid to any hopes Murty had of remaining in charge at Ibrox beyond the end of the season as Celtic ruthlessly reinforced their dominance of a fixture in which Rodgers is now unbeaten in all 10 he has overseen.
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The Scottish champions, who can wrap up their seventh consecutive league title with victory against Hibs at Easter Road next Saturday, will return to Hampden on 19 May to face Motherwell in a repeat of the Betfred Cup final they won 2-0 last November.
Rodgers, who claims he has yet to give any significant contemplation of the prospect of a second consecutive treble, relished his latest triumph over Rangers.
“They are all very much special in their own way,” he said. “I know what these games are all about and knowing how tense and how edgy they can be. Every game is different and I have enjoyed every single one. But, of course, when you get to the semi-final stage and you win and there is something there at the end of it, then it makes it extra special. But they are all great wins and it is a brilliant day for our supporters.
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“There is always lots of talk up here about the gap (between Celtic and Rangers) and other things. We never think anything other than it’s going to be a tough game.
“There is always some background noise about this game. That’s my 10th one now and there’s always something around it, about a team getting closer or whatever.
“Rangers have got good players. It’s a tough day for them today, of course, but we’ve played well and won the game. Our players had a good edge and good composure.
“We wanted to get to the final. There is always pressure, you can’t get away from it. If you play for Celtic or manage Celtic, then the expectation is huge.
“So there is never a game when you don’t have pressure, added Rodgers.
“When you get to these games, you are always looking for that little difference and the players produced today.
“I haven’t really thought about [the double treble]. I’m always one where the mantra is the next game.
“We are in the final now and that won’t be an easy game when you look at Motherwell, that’s two cups finals we’ll be playing them in this season. That’s a totally different game again with their physicality and they are a very honest team that work very hard,
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“But we know that when we turn up and play it gives us a great chance. We know we have a job to do now. We have to finish off the league campaign. We are in a really good position there, but have five tough games. We want to finish the season well and be back here and look forward to the final with good confidence.”
Murty refused to discuss his own future at Rangers as he lamented the failure of his players to lay a glove on Celtic.
“I’m not going to talk about my role,” he said. “I think it would be churlish and selfish to talk about my own situation.
“It’s a lonely place standing on the sidelines when that’s going on. I don’t think words are enough to convey how I’m feeling right now. I would apologise to our supporters for the game. I would ask for their patience and ask them to keep believing but we can’t keep asking for it. We have to put on a performance worthy of their support. We didn’t do enough to make them want to stay in the stadium today.
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“There was emotion, anger, disappointment in our dressing room – all the things you would expect after a game like that. This is the worst I have ever felt in my career, without a doubt.
“There’s lots of things to look at. I don’t think we got close enough to them. We didn’t put them under enough pressure and allowed them to play through us too easily. All four goals were easily avoidable just through basic, good defending and in the second half, we gave them the penalty and sending off [of Ross McCrorie] which makes their job far, far easier. We were just passive. I don’t know why. I asked them to get into a shape and the structure was there to allow them to go and press but when it comes to the game, you have to get up closer to your opponent than we did in the first period.”