Brendan Rodgers insists the title win Celtic clinched by crushing Rangers 5-0 yesterday has eclipsed his team’s historic undefeated Premiership triumph of last season.
Celtic wrapped up their seventh consecutive title and the 49th of their history with a record-breaking margin of victory over their greatest rivals in an Old Firm league fixture.
It was one of the best displays of the season from Rodgers’ side in a campaign when they have mostly been seen to struggle to match the high standards set in the manager’s first year at the helm.
But Rodgers believes his players deserve even greater credit for retaining the title this time around. “This title is definitely better, even though we went unbeaten last year,” said Rodgers. “When I came in last year, there was expectation of course. But to have had that season and then come in again this season with very little break and go and perform like we’ve done, playing a number of games under pressure, we have done that very, very well.”
It is the first time since 1979 that Celtic have clinched a league title by beating Rangers at Parkhead and their performance left Rodgers purring with satisfaction. “The performance today was outstanding, if you think about what the players put into the game,” he added. “These games are full of emotion. We said to the players beforehand we obviously know the consequence of the game and all the historical facts around it, Celtic to win it here against Rangers for the first time in 39 years, but I said to them ‘you’ve got to play football’.
“Our basic rules today were very simple. It was to attack with real aggression and intensity, try and recover the ball as quick as we can when we lose it and, when we can’t do that, make sure you are tight and compact and look to dominate as much of the ball as you can and give it your best shot.
“I don’t think I could have asked any more of the players, they were absolutely brilliant. I’m really proud. These games are highly emotive, both sets of supporters want their team to do well.
“But for us and our fans it was a special day to wrap up the title. We had a great performance last year at Hearts to clinch the league and I was really pleased with how the players coped with that pressure and expectancy. To then go on and stay as calm as they did but play with that intent in the game was really pleasing. Obviously the supporters responded to that.”
Celtic scored their fifth goal of the match with well over half an hour still remaining and Rodgers had no doubt they had an opportunity to rack up an even more memorable margin of victory. Celtic’s all-time record win in an Old Firm game, the 7-1 success in the 1957-58 League Cup final, looked under threat. “We should have had seven but we’ll take five,” smiled Rodgers.
Odsonne Edouard, whose double set Celtic on their way before James Forrest, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor got on the scoresheet, was outstanding for the champions. The French striker is on loan from Paris Saint-Germain until the summer and Rodgers is optimistic Celtic will be able to take up an option to buy him on a permanent deal.
“There is a very, very good chance of that, hopefully,” said Rodgers. “He wants to be here. It will be a case of hopefully getting an agreement with Paris Saint-Germain. We will finish the season and then see where we are with that.
“He’s a brilliant player. I think some were questioning his ability when he first came but this is a player who was brought in for a reason.
“He is 20, he has everything – and I mean everything. Pace, power, you see his strength and his ability with the ball at his feet.
“He’s got a natural brain for football. He comes into the space, he can play off the sides. He has become really physical this season as it’s gone on.
“He has adapted into how we play with the physicality of the game.
“His two goals and his link-up play today was absolutely sensational for a young guy in that type of environment.
“I’ve got Leigh Griffiths there as well but I felt that, with Rangers probably wanting to come and press us, if we wanted to go over the top of the press, then Odsonne has the physical strength to hold it and break the
“There were a lot of good contributions all round but I was delighted for him to come into a game of that magnitude and play that