Rangers-PSV Extras: When Ruud met Fergie: “We did not discuss Manchester United”; McLaughlin comes of age
When Ruud met Fergie on a dark night in Govan…
Even though one wore a baseball cap and towered over his opposite man, as in the case of Tomas Tuchel-Antonio Conte handshake weekend drama, and the game finished 2-2, as it did at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, there was never likely to be similar sparks when Ruud van Nistelrooy and Giovanni van Bronckhorst greeted each other before kick-off and again when they embraced each other at the end.
While they were central figures in an English football rivalry that was rather more explosive than Chelsea v Spurs, the former Manchester United and Arsenal players have too much respect for one another to indulge in such antics. More than that, they are friends and former international teammates.
Where it might have got heated was afterwards when Van Nistelrooy encountered Sir Alex Ferguson, his old manager at Manchester United. Not even the striker’s phenomenal strike rate – he scored 150 times in 219 appearances – could save him after he rather ill-advisedly called Ferguson a “Scottish pig” from the bench at Wembley. The manager had opted to leave Van Nistelrooy sitting on the sidelines throughout the 2006 League Cup final win over Wigan Athletic.
The Dutch striker was persona non grata after that and he left United at the end of that season. Van Nistelrooy sent a belated text of apology a few years later. As a result, their meeting at Ibrox last night in Ferguson's old manor was less fraught than it might otherwise have been. “That he could see me down on the touchline at Ibrox is a proud moment,” Van Nistelrooy said afterwards.
Perhaps another reason for the cordial nature of their chat is the revelation that they avoided one particularly fraught subject at this moment in time – Manchester United.
“We talked about how we were,” said Van Nistelrooy. “We did not discuss United – or players. It was just a personal chat, really.”
McLaughlin comes of age
This was the night when Jon McLaughlin showed that the Rangers No. 1 jersey – or in actual fact, the No. 33 jersey – need not necessarily weigh heavily on him.
The former Hearts ‘keeper has been placed in an unenviable position this season. Not only has been asked to succeed Allan McGregor, but he is doing so while MacGregor, 40, looks on from the bench. Not to mention almost 50,000 others in the stadium on nights such as last night who are all thinking the same thing: is McLaughlin a credible successor to McGregor?
The pressure seems almost intolerable, but MacLaughlin is looking more and more like a Rangers first-choice ‘keeper with every passing game.
He made two excellent stops – most notably one from Philipp Max – in the second half to keep Rangers in the tie as PSV threatened to up the ante. The ‘keeper was quick to come off his line and close down attackers.
McLaughlin might have felt entitled to expect a bit more help from his defenders at corners but it was an otherwise positive night for someone now coming of age at Rangers at a comparatively youthful 34.
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