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Late Penalty Sinks Determined Gers

Rangers manager Walter Smith praised the work-rate and desire of his injury-hit squad that came within 8 minutes of holding Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Ibrox last night.

Wayne Rooney’s 85th-minute penalty sent United into the Last 16 after Steven Naismith had clattered Fabio inside the penalty area. Smith insists the target for this season was to seal European Football after christmas and he is pleased to have achieved that goal. He said: “I don’t think there’s many groups of players that work as hard as our own do and it’s good that they’ve managed to achieve European football after Christmas”

Rangers were forced into a number of tactical shuffles for the ‘Battle of Britain’ clash and Smith was not helped by Kyle Lafferty’s injury yesterday morning. That meant a debut for 19-year-old midfielder Kyle Hutton who equipped himself well in the centre of midfield. Smith continued to use the 5-4-1 system and deployed Steven Davis at right wing-back with Steven Whittaker in centre of defence alongside David Weir and Kirk Broadfoot. Compare the threadbare squad of Rangers to the luxuries of Manchester United and you can see the immediate gulf in class as Sir Alex swapped Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand for Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling. United were also able to bring on Anderson, Obertan and Hernandez during the 90 minutes, but it was much-maligned Wayne Rooney who netted the winning goal after a few dismal attempts throughout the match.

Manchester United created a number of chances in both halves with Wayne Rooney clipping the cross-bar in the first-half and Allan McGregor pulling off two splendid saves from Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov. The home-side were rallied on by a passionate and enthusiastic crowd despite missing a few clear-cut chances in the first-half, like the Gers did against Valencia on Matchday Three. Kenny Miller headed wide early on but his moment came towards the end of the half when neat play from Naismith and Davis sent the SPL’s top goalscorer through on goal and instead of cutting back for Weiss, he tried to curl home from an acute angle.

Rangers will be looking for more success in the UEFA Europa League, the equivalent of the UEFA Cup which Smith led his side to the final in 2008. However, the Rangers boss admitted he might not get the investment needed in January. After being asked whether he will get funds to strengthen in January, Smith replied: “It doesn’t look like it but that’s the way we’ve been for a while and we just carry on. If we don’t get any help in the January transfer window we could have a struggle because we’re right down to the bare bones”

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