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Comment: Why Graeme Murty must be relieved of his misery after Celtic prove Old Firm gulf in Rangers thrashing

 

By Julian Taylor

The Sunday service, masquerading as an Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final, turned into sweet worship for Celtic - but are we surprised that it was actually so effortless?

Parkhead manager Brendan Rodgers vexed a calf muscle during the previous Premiership fixture due to dramatic celebrations. There was no hint of anything other than a waltz for the cup holders at Hampden yesterday.

Back to back trebles are within touching distance for Carnlough man Rodgers, this master of contemporary Old Firm ceremonies. And Celtic's quest for a 38th Scottish Cup is firmly on schedule.

Rangers were shambolic, accepting of their fate from the start and bereft of basic ingredients a team requires on big occasions: desire, organisation, quality. Alfredo Morelos, their young Colombian striker, was the only player who seemed to care for the importance of the semi-final. That speaks volumes.

It can't have been pleasant for Jimmy Nicholl, the Ibrox assistant manager, who admitted pre-match, the occasion was a family affair, with his 84-year-old mother Mary attending her first Glasgow derby. However, it will have been nothing compared to how rookie boss Graeme Murty - who must, without question, be relieved of his obvious misery - felt after another expert Rodgers tutorial. You cannot even compare the two.

Murty's initial choice of Russell Martin at Bruno Alves' expense at centre half and two holding midfielders in Gary Docherty and Andy Halliday - both, like the manager, simply not up to standards - revealed an basic error of judgement.

Halliday's ignominy of being replaced by Josh Windass before the break was not only embarrassing for the lifelong Rangers fan, but also a bullet point that Murty himself is out of his depth in terms of tactical nuances at this level. The casual superiority of Scott Brown in Old Firm games is now practically a subplot of joy for Celtic supporters.

Martin's lack of pace helped facilitate Celts' opener by Tom Rogic and Rodgers can always count on the Australian to be the appropriate cool head.

With Halliday stewing, there was a moment of bleak farce that, just as Rangers re-entered for the second half, they were accompanied by the famous line 'need a little time to wake up' from Oasis as Morning Glory blasted from the PA system.

When Rangers' desperation even afflicts their brightest prospect, Ross McCrorie, who received a red card for clumsily bundling Moussa Dembele in the box - from which the forward clipped home a flamboyant spot kick - you understand this is a club sleepwalking into trauma, where even second place in the Premiership is not guaranteed.

A flickering Light Blues second half revival was as much to do with Celtic conserving energy as any ingenuity on Murty's part. In terms of any possible long-term managerial future, Rangers, even at their most naive boardroom level, must understand his ship has sailed.

Celtic's professionalism and hunger, even after all their dominance of Scottish football, continues to impress. The Hoops' half-lap of honour at the end of this excuse for a contest, showed a club together and completely on message.

When it matters, Celtic under Rodgers can be trusted to ring the high notes with relish. Nevertheless, their sheer imposition on sorry opponents was surprising in its breathtaking ferocity.

A sharpness and speed-of-thought by a superior midfield partnership of Brown and Olivier Atcham remains, too, one of the major differences between the rivals.

While Rodgers can experiment with almost perfect domestic expectations, Celtic can congratulate themselves on their foresight, with a 38th cup in sight. Having lost to Rangers in the corresponding fixture two seasons ago they couldn't afford not to splash out for a high level coach.

Rangers must learn the same lesson with immediate effect - splash out for the most important person at a football club. Otherwise, those fans who drifted away once Atcham crowned the humiliation will create the type of discord capable of psychologically destabilising a club indefinitely.

Rodgers requires a test that was patently absent yesterday. Facing fellow Ulsterman Stephen Robinson of Motherwell will be of special interest.

And you can guarantee Robinson's proud, industrious side will not capitulate in the manner Rangers did.

Belfast Telegraph

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