Coupled with Celtic then finding a way to overcome Dundee with a late winner at Parkhead, it leaves the reigning champions three points behind their Old Firm rivals at the top of the table with 11 games of the campaign remaining.
No end product
Unlike when they lost 1-0 at Tannadice back in August, this couldn’t reasonably be described as a poor performance by Rangers. On the contrary, in an absorbing match on a difficult pitch, they produced significant spells of smart and inventive football – especially in the second half as they looked to overturn Ross Graham’s 29th minute opener for United.
But despite enjoying 74 per cent of possession and having 29 attempts at goal, Rangers were undone by the lack of a cutting edge in the final third with only Joe Aribo’s 76th minute equaliser to show for their efforts.
There were similarly worrying statistics for Giovanni van Bronckhorst in Dingwall last month when Rangers were held to a 3-3 draw by Ross County despite having 72 per cent possession and 25 attempts at goal, albeit their biggest issue that day was defensive errors.
Van Bronckhorst has lost just one of his 19 games in charge of Rangers so far but is in serious danger of failing in his primary objective of retaining the Premiership title, having inherited a four point lead at the top of the table when he replaced Steven Gerrard in November.
Kent back to his best
After his display in the 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Thursday saw him compared to the great French winger Franck Ribery by BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves, Ryan Kent was in sparkling form again.
If anything, Rangers didn’t get the ball to Kent enough as he looked capable of making something happen every time he took possession. He will be key to Rangers’ hopes of turning the tables again between now and May.
Controlling the controllables
It may be frustrating for journalists seeking a spiky reaction and bewildering for supporters convinced their team were hard done by. But van Bronckhorst is simply not a manager who will seek the easy refuge or diversionary tactics of lambasting match officials.
He remained immovably phlegmatic when quizzed about the two strong penalty claims Rangers were denied, outlining the pointlessness of the debate as Scottish football operates without the VAR system which helped ensure his team got their just rewards in Dortmund three days earlier.
Dundee United (3-5-2): Siegrist 7, Edwards 7, Mulgrew 7, Graham 7; Smith 6, Harkes 6, Butcher 6 (Freeman 78), Levitt 7, Niskanen 8; Watt 6 (Clark 85), McNulty 6. Subs not used: Eriksson, Akinola, Meekison, Neilson, Mochrie, Moore, MacLeod.
Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor 6, Tavernier 7, Goldson 6, Helander 6 (Diallo 73), Bassey 7; Jack 7, Lundstram 7; Arfield 5 (Sakala 58 6), Aribo 7, Kent 8; Morelos 6. Subs not used: McCrorie, Zukowski, Barisic, Davis, Kamara, Sands, Roofe.
Referee: Bobby Madden.