Red Star Belgrade came up against an inspired Allan McGregor in the Rangers goalAt 40-years-old, Allan McGregor is still proving to be the difference for Rangers at the highest level.
Rare mistakes this term have cast some doubt over the Ibrox goalkeeper’s place in the side and whether his 21-year career is drawing to a natural conclusion.
But the veteran former Scotland international, whose contract expires at the end of the season, highlighted his importance yet again with a stunning display in Thursday’s 3-0 first-leg Europa League win over Red Star Belgrade.
Here, BBC Scotland looks at the numbers behind McGregor’s season and why he might not be done just yet.
Rangers stun Red Star in Europa LeaguePodcast: ‘Red Star didn’t give Rangers respect they deserve’Reaction & as it happened’Wonderful. Outstanding. Amazing’Van Bronckhorst suggested post-match that perhaps 3-0 flattered Rangers, saying “the scoreline, you wouldn’t expect it when you see the game”.
And it was a game decided by fine margins, with McGregor pulling off a stunning stop to deny Red Star’s clinical, free-scoring forward Aleksandar Katai from the penalty spot on 24 minutes.
With the score at 2-0, had Katai’s effort found the back of the net, the complexion of the tie could have changed dramatically. But McGregor kept Rangers’ clean sheet intact, throwing himself low to his right and denying the forward with a strong wrist.
“Wonderful, outstanding,” said Sportsound pundit Leanne Crichton of the save.
“Amazing,” added Van Bronckhorst.
“It’s an incredible save, the 40-year-old comes to Rangers’ rescue again,” added former Rangers midfielder Alex Rae.
McGregor had to be sharp in the second period as Red Star attempted to reduce Rangers’ advantage, with alert near-post saves thwarting Katai and El Fardou Ben before a fine reaction stop prevented Mirko Ivanic finding the bottom-right corner.
What do the numbers tell us?
Any question marks around McGregor have come from uncharacteristic errors made on the domestic front, with a fumbled cross at home to Hearts earlier in the season and two recent mistakes at Ross County resulting in dropped points.
The Rangers keeper has shipped nine more Premiership goals than he did in the entirety of last term with eight games still to play, and his save percentage has dropped by 16%.
But Van Bronckhorst didn’t give any thought to dropping the 40-year-old, who is enjoying a better Europa League campaign individually than last term – averaging a goal concession every 90 minutes in comparison to every 54 minutes last term.
“I didn’t have a decision to make,” the manager said. “I know how important he can be for the team. He showed that with a great save with the penalty but also some crucial saves again in Europe.
“I am very pleased for Allan, he’s part of the team, we win together and we lose together. I have full confidence in him and full confidence in my squad.”
‘Incredible to think people wanted him dropped’ – analysisFormer Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam on Sportsound
Not bad considering the criticism he had last week. It was a quality penalty but an unbelievable save. In the Dortmund second leg, there was a moment McGregor saved Rangers. He’s done it again.
Former Rangers defender Richard Foster on Sportsound
To think people were wanting him dropped a couple of weeks ago is incredible. Even at the age he’s at, his reactions are so sharp, he can afford himself the liberty of waiting.