Rangers finally gave their fans something to cheer about as they clinched second place in the Scottish Premier League with their biggest home win of the season as they thrashed Dundee United 5-0 at Ibrox on Wednesday.
After surviving an early scare, the Gers, who were docked ten points for entering administration in February, scored three goals in 15 first-half minutes to end the game by the 20th minute. Steven Whittaker fired Rangers into a fifth-minute lead before Sone Aluko doubled their advantage with a superb solo goal 12 minutes later.
The Nigerian had his second of the game in the 20th minute and only a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping stopped Rangers adding more before the break as they laid siege to the United goal.
Jamie Ness got his first goal of the season in the 57th minute and substitute Alejandro Bedoya added a late fifth to end any hopes Dundee United had of catching Motherwell in third place and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
"I was thrilled with the performance and the result," said Rangers coach Ally McCoist, whose side were thrashed 3-0 by Old Firm rivals Celtic on Sunday. "To a man, I thought they gave everyone a real tonic after the disappointment of the weekend. It was a great performance from players that probably at the start of the season you wouldn't have thought you would have seen in a Ranger jersey."
His United counterpart, Peter Houston, said the performance had been embarrassing. "I don't know what happened tonight with regards to the start. After 17 minutes the game was over," Houston said. "We were sloppy, we were slack and we never worked hard enough. The Dundee United team never turned up tonight."
At Ibrox, Rangers made two changes to the side that lost to Celtic, with starting spots handed to Ness and Algerian Salim Kerkar. United started the game knowing only a win would be enough if they were to catch Motherwell and Garry Kenneth tested Allan McGregor with a 25-yard free-kick that the visiting keeper tipped round the post.
Rangers lined up in an attacking 3-5-2 formation and it did not take long for it to pay dividends. Rhys McCabe played in Whittaker down the right channel and he curled the ball around Dusan Pernis from ten yards.
United had the chance to equalise five minutes later when the ball broke to Gary MacKay-Stevens in the box, but his fierce strike was tipped over by McGregor. The home side always looked a threat going forward and Pernis had to be alert to stop McCabe's deflected shot sneaking in before Aluko doubled their lead with a sensational goal.
The Nigerian international went on a mazy run and skipped past a few United challenges before racing into the box and firing past the helpless keeper. Just over three minutes later, Aluko claimed his ninth of the season when he cut into the box from the right and fended off some hapless challenges to slot the ball into the bottom-left corner.
United made a double substitution at half-time in a bid to get back into the game but it was Rangers who continued to cause problems, with Aluko forcing Pernis into a decent save after racing in to the box. Ness, in only his fourth appearance of the season, made it 4-0 in the 57th minute when he took advantage of confusion in the United defence to race into the box and calmly finish past Pernis.
American international Bedoya replaced Aluko late on and he added a fifth in the 84th minute when Maurice Edu found him with a neat pass and he beat Robbie Neilson to the ball to stab home from 12 yards.