Ianis Hagi and other second-string stars will get opportunities – Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard has told his second-string players they may not be needed this weekend but will be given a chance to contribute to Rangers’ title charge over the hectic festive period.
The Ibrox boss made seven changes to the side who had thrashed Ross County as Rangers took on Lech Poznan in Thursday’s Europa League clash.
He was keen to keep key men like skipper James Tavernier, midfielder Steven Davis and frontmen Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe fresh for Sunday’s vital Premiership trip to Tannadice.
But the players who came in did not let him down.
Striker Cedric Itten netted on his full European debut while Ianis Hagi scored his first goal since August to seal a 2-0 victory which saw the Light Blues pip Benfica to top spot in Group D.
Teenager Nathan Patterson and recent signing Bongani Zungu also strolled through their first starts in continental action – but Gerrard admits all four are likely to be back on the bench against Dundee United this weekend.
However, the Rangers boss has promised they will get to play their part as his side begin a frenetic run of seven games in just 21 days.
He said: “I think you could see quite clearly on Thursday night the decisions that we made and we obviously had one eye on the weekend’s fixture.
“I don’t think it will be any surprise to see a few changes in the XI on Sunday.
“The good thing for me is that everyone is performing ever so well, everyone is training well, everyone is giving me something to think about.
“There is a lot of football coming up, the games are coming thick and fast and everyone needs to be ready to come in and contribute at the right time.
“But obviously we made decisions on the team selection and the substitutions with one eye on the weekend so I don’t think it will surprise many when they see a different XI.”
The Rangers faithful still harbour bitterness towards United, stemming back to a breakdown in relations between the clubs during former Tangerines owner Stephen Thompson’s stint in charge.
And Gerrard reckons that spice could be on show as Gers head back to Tannadice for the first time in almost eight years.
He said: “I’m expecting a tough game. There is some rivalry there, we expect a bit of needle there, which we welcome.
“Micky Mellon is an experienced manager. He has been around for a long time, he is a good manager that has come in and done ever so well.
“We expect him to have his team well drilled. They will be competitive and they have got good players so we are expecting a really tough challenge on Sunday.”