Defender Madjid Bougherra hailed the team effort that earned Rangers FC a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Manchester United FC in UEFA Champions League Group C on Tuesday night.
The Scottish titleholders conceded 13 goals in the group stage last season, keeping no clean sheets, but manager Walter Smith's smothering tactics succeeded in frustrating his old friend Sir Alex Ferguson as the all-British showdown ended in stalemate. Smith opted to field Bougherra as one of a trio of centre-backs alongside David Weir and Saša Papac and all made telling blocks or interceptions in a match defined by the recurring image of blue bodies flung in the way of the ball.
Algerian international Bougherra told UEFA.com: "The key is the team – you have to stay together, attack together, defend together. To attack was very difficult because if we attacked all together they'd have space and Man Utd get forward quickly. We changed tactics and played [three centre-backs] and it was a good experience because we didn't concede and were strong at the back."
Rangers' 40-year-old captain Weir said that unwavering discipline was at the heart of his team's success. "Obviously the way we were set out we came for a point and we achieved our objective," he explained. "We played with three central defenders and two full-backs as well so we pretty much had the width of the pitch covered so it was just keeping our discipline and working hard. "
United midfielder Darren Fletcher acknowledged the "disappointed" mood in the home camp but admitted that Rangers' defensive display warranted credit. "Every time you went for the ball they had two men, especially in wide areas," said the Scotland captain, who was frustrated by Bougherra's challenge ten minutes from time when he looked poised to profit from substitute Ryan Giggs's chip over the top.
Fletcher was the only player retained from United's weekend 3-3 draw at Everton and their much-changed side lacked the spark and cohesion to break Rangers down. He added: "When you went through the middle they had the three centre-halves and they doubled up on the wingers. They made it ever so difficult and when it is like that you only hope for a cross into the box and a second ball, or a shot from the edge of the box and nothing really fell for us. Their game plan was to come and get everybody behind the ball and leave Kenny Miller up front and play for a draw and that is what they got."
With mission accomplished in Manchester, the Rangers players voiced their determination to build on this hard-earned point against Bursapor at Ibrox on Matchday 2 – and make amends for their three straight losses at home in last season's competition. Striker Miller said: "We started quite well last year and got a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart so I hope this year our home form will be a lot better and obviously our next home game against Bursaspor we will have to try and go and win, and pose more of a threat which we haven't really done tonight."
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