Alex McLeish says Rangers fans must back Pedro Caixinha after their Europa League humiliation, but has doubts over whether they can finish second in the Scottish Premiership this season.
Rangers lost 2-1 on aggregate to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn in the first round of Europa League qualifying after a 2-0 defeat in the second leg on Tuesday and the Portuguese manager has already accepted blame for the shocking loss.
McLeish, who won seven trophies as Rangers manager from 2001-06, including a domestic treble, labelled the result as the worst in the club’s history but said Caixinha should now be given time to see his new summer signings bed in after being given license by the Ibrox board to completely re-shuffle the squad.
“Let’s not get away from it – it is an awful, awful result and probably the worst in Rangers’ history. They used to go on about a Berwick Rangers result in 1967 but this is a shocker,” he told Sky Sports News HQ.
“It is a shocking result to lose to Luxembourg minnows but the fans still have to get behind Pedro Caixinha because he is there for the considerable future and you have to give him the support that Rangers fans have always afforded their managers in the beginning, including myself.”
He added: “The thing about Rangers, they may not be the best team in the world but they are in an elite group of clubs whereby they have to win every week. Celtic, Rangers, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United – they are an elite band of clubs and Rangers are one of those.
“[The reaction] will be really tough for him and he won’t know what’s hit him and in much the same way as Mark Warburton last year. Mark was astonished by the backlash when they lost 5-1 to Celtic in the first Old Firm game of the season.
“That really hit him hard and he didn’t really know that kind of backlash would have been so intense but that is the challenge when you go to a club like Rangers.
“It was a little bit of a surprise appointment [Caixinha] but at the same time he has brought loads of new players and, again, I stress and emphasise, if they get into a bit of rhythm and get more fitness about them.”
McLeish said Rangers must now concentrate on domestic duties following their Europa League exit and improve on their disappointing campaign last time out which saw them finish third, nine points behind Aberdeen, but he is not convinced overhauling the Dons will be an easy task.
“The most important thing now is that they take the Premiership on all fronts,” he said. “I don’t think they can usurp Celtic this season, but they should be aiming to get above Aberdeen.
“But when I see the business that Derek McInnes is doing again, it’s difficult to see Rangers finishing second again.”
However, McLeish did suggest Rangers’ struggles in Europe coincided with their early pre-season schedule while admitting he was unsure of Caixinha’s decision to bring in such a big number of foreign players this summer, with many playing in Scotland for the first time.
“If you want to feel a bit of sympathy at the moment then you have to remember that they are only three or four games in to their pre-season and they are really without a rhythm as such,” he said. “There are a lot of new players, how long it takes for them to settle is going to be very difficult to assess.
“When you are bringing household names in, as you see in the Premier League, but Rangers haven’t done that. The only one is Bruno Alves who is not quite fit yet, maybe he would have made a difference.
“When I was at Birmingham a few years ago, we played pre-season friendlies and we were off the pace. I think we lost to Crewe 4-2 in a friendly and [then joint-chairman] David Sullivan was very concerned and I said ‘the guys have not got their stride yet, let’s wait and see’ and we finished ninth in the Premier League that season.
“I’m not saying Rangers will go on to brilliant success because I do have my doubts about loads of foreign players coming in unknown to the Scottish league.”Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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