Dundee United 0 Rangers 3
Rangers regained top spot in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League tonight after sweeping to a remarkably straightforward win in their rearranged game at Dundee United.
Walter Smith’s men were expected to face one of their toughest tests of the season at Tannadice but United simply failed to turn up, casting serious doubt on claims they could push the Old Firm all the way this season.
DaMarcus Beasley scored his first goal since the 2008 Scottish Cup final to hand the visitors a half-time lead before a Kenny Miller double had the champions home and dry – and a point clear of Celtic – with 15 minutes remaining.
Midfielder Kevin Thomson failed to shake off a hamstring injury and was replaced by the man who came on for him against St Johnstone on Saturday, Lee McCulloch, in the visitors’ only change.
United recalled midfielders Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben after both passed fitness tests and drafted in Danny Cadamarteri up front.
Darren Dods replaced Andy Webster, who is unable to face Rangers under the terms of his season-long loan from the Ibrox club.
The half-time abandonment of last month’s original game due to a waterlogged pitch led to a war of words between Ibrox chief executive Martin Bain and United chairman Stephen Thomson over the latter’s decision to charge fans for the rearranged game.
As a result, Rangers supporters took up only around a quarter of their 5,600 ticket allocation for the match, with many choosing to boycott it, although there were reports tonight of hundreds trying to gain entry before kick-off.
Those who did get in almost saw their side take an 11th-minute lead.
Moments after Danny Cadamarteri was booked for a challenge on McCulloch, Beasley fired in a fizzing left-foot drive, which needed a good save from Nicky Weaver before being scrambled behind.
McCulloch then sent a low 20-yard volley narrowly wide before Nacho Novo set up Steven Davis, who had put Rangers ahead in the original fixture but failed to connect properly this time.
At the other end, Sasa Papac cleared off the line after Garry Kenneth met a corner, but the defender had already been penalised for a foul.
Jon Daly headed a Craig Conway free-kick straight at Neil Alexander from just six yards before Rangers burst forward and took a 26th-minute lead in stunning style.
From a similar position to his earlier effort, Beasley unleashed a brilliant dipping 20-yard shot that left Weaver floundering.
Rangers were looking comfortable and were screaming for a penalty eight minutes before half-time when Kris Boyd went down under pressure from Mihael Kovacevic trying to convert a Miller cross.
McCulloch became the second man carded for felling Buaben on halfway, while Beasley required treatment after a coming together with Dods.
United threw on Scott Robertson for Kovacevic at the restart, before Daly blew the chance to atone for his earlier miss with an air shot from 12 yards.
Both sides were cancelling each other out until Novo showed great determination to get the better of two United players and float in a left-wing cross for the unmarked Miller to nod home Rangers’ second.
The 58th-minute goal was instantly followed by another United change, Jennison Myrie-Williams coming on for Cadamarteri.
Madjid Bougherra twice went close to wrapping up the points with headers, his first effort forcing a fine scooped save by an unsighted Weaver.
Miller saw a shot deflected wide before United made their final change when David Goodwillie came on for Gomis.
Boyd was denied a fifth goal in three games when Weaver got fingertips to his header from Davis’ cross.
But Miller was on hand to end the game as a contest 15 minutes from time when Beasley cut the ball back from the byline for the simplest of finishes.
Rangers had the luxury of withdrawing Boyd, Beasley and Novo for Kyle Lafferty, Steven Naismith and John Fleck late on before Papac was booked for a needless foul on Goodwillie in the closing seconds.