On 11 March, Rangers appointed their 16th manager in their now 145-year history, in the form of the relatively unknown Pedro Caixinha. The 46-year-old Portuguese manager arrived in Glasgow to be announced as manager prior to last Sunday’s Old Firm game against Celtic at Celtic Park.
It had been rumoured that Caixinha would take the helm at Ibrox for the past week, much to the surprise of the Scottish football community, which had previously assumed that Rangers would appoint a well-known and established name, such as former manager Alex McLeish, or former player Frank de Boer.
Nonetheless, they have instead placed their confidence in a manager who was managing in Qatar with Al-Gharafa and who has also managed in Mexico with Santos Laguna, as well as in his homeland. Caixinha sat in the stands for Rangers’ spirited 1-1 draw against Celtic and would have been very pleased at his team’s performance.
Rangers would make the case that they should have left Celtic Park with all three points, with Martyn Waghorn missing two great opportunities and Jason Holt also coming close. Stuart Armstrong opened the scoring with a fine shot into the bottom right-hand corner in the first half but with only three minutes to go, Clint Hill followed up an Emerson Hyndman shot to give Rangers a well-deserved point. This may prove to be a crucial point for Rangers, not only in their quest to finish second but also to give them some much needed confidence going into the Scottish Cup semi-final again against Celtic on 23 April.
Rangers have been under significant criticism, in some cases justified, from many journalists and so-called pundits recently. The situation was not helped by the controversial departure of Mark Warburton last month and the fact that Rangers are currently over 30 points behind Celtic in the league.
Caixinha will not only have to win over the Rangers’ support, but also the media, which appears to have set its sights on scrutinising every movement that comes from either Ibrox or Murray Park. He will have no doubt won over many of the Rangers’ support in his very first press conference when he claimed that Rangers “have the best squad in Scotland”. When asked to clarify this statement, he simply responded: “144 years and 54 league titles, need I say more?”
The new manager took his first training session at Murray Park on Tuesday morning, aiming to rectify the defensive frailties that have cost Rangers far too many points this season. He must also look for a strong end to the season which, in a best-case scenario, will result in Rangers finishing second ahead of Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, a semi-final triumph over Celtic in April, and lifting the famous Scottish Cup trophy at Hampden in May. Then, and only then, would most Rangers fans deem this season a relative success.
However, Caixinha must not forget to look to the summer transfer window, pre-season, and to next season altogether. If Rangers reach the Scottish Cup final on 27 May and then qualify for the Europa League, their season could end in late May and begin at the end of June. This would leave very little time for the players to rest and for management team to look to the season ahead.
It really goes without saying that Rangers require significant investment in the summer – especially in defensive positions: not only to build a team that can compete with Celtic for the league championship next season but also a team that Rangers fans can get excited about going to see every week. Rangers will look to build on their attractive style of play by adding some clinical finishing, and the Rangers board seem to believe that the unknown Caixinha is the man to help them achieve this and return Rangers to the top of Scottish football once again.
Image courtesy of Tom Brogan