Michael Beale must demand high standards to challenge Celtic

Michael Beale faces a huge task to overhaul Celtic next season after his team failed to deliver in the biggest matches this term. The incoming Rangers manager will need to establish stringent standards and show strong leadership to close the gap on their Old Firm rivals.

Beale’s team selections in recent pivotal fixtures have been perplexing and sent the wrong message to his squad.

Alfredo Morelos was clearly unfit and out of form, yet was handed starts in the Viaplay Cup final, Scottish Cup semi-final and the crunch Premiership clash at Celtic Park – all of which Rangers lost.

Morelos has looked off the pace for weeks, so picking him for those key games was strange and suggested to other players their manager did not trust them.

In contrast, Ange Postecoglou ruthlessly shipped out Giorgos Giakoumakis in January despite the risk of losing Kyogo Furuhashi to injury.

The Celtic boss’ ruthless approach demonstrated that any player not fully committed was of no use.

Mikel Arteta took a similarly bold stance last season by exiling Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when the striker was Arsenal’s star man – a decision which has since been vindicated.

Beale had the chance to show strength by dropping Morelos and Ryan Kent, who were both expected to leave, but persisted with the pair.

That must have frustrated the likes of Antonio Colak, who was left on the bench as Morelos started ahead of him in games of huge magnitude.

The incoming Rangers manager will be aware today’s final Old Firm derby of the season is essentially meaningless, but he needs to demand higher standards from his team if they are to wrestle the title back from Celtic next term.

Beale must demand high standards to challenge Celtic

Simply signing better players will not be enough. Beale must install the kind of strong values, leadership and decision making which saw Postecoglou transform Celtic.

The new Ibrox boss should learn from his mistakes picking unfit and uncommitted stars for massive matches when others were ready to step in.

Rangers require players who can handle pressure – not those more interested in posting on social media.

Four years ago, James Tavernier’s claim that “Glasgow was blue” after a dead rubber win over Celtic came back to haunt the right-back.

Beale would be wise to warn his team against similar silliness this time regardless of the result.

The bottom line is Rangers have lacked bottle and standards this season. Michael Beale knows he must change that if he wants to overhaul Celtic.

Strong leadership, high demands and the bravery to make tough calls will be key to bridging the gap.