Ruud van Nistelrooy brands Ibrox match 'more important' and vows to park friendship with Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, left, and PSV Eindhoven manager Ruud van Nistelrooy
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, left, and PSV Eindhoven manager Ruud van Nistelrooy

HAVING his former Netherlands team mate and close personal friend Giovanni van Bronckhorst next to him on the touchline at Ibrox tomorrow evening will be a memorable experience for Ruud van Nistelrooy.

"It will be very special,” said the legendary Dutch striker as he looked ahead to the first leg of the Champions League play-off double header between his PSV Eindhoven side and Rangers in Govan.

“We get on well with each other, we know each other from the changing rooms, our families know each other and it is a special, special thing.”

Yet, Van Nistelrooy will have no difficulties putting his bond with Van Bronckhorst to one side for 90 minutes and focusing solely on securing a result that increases PSV’s chances of reaching the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition.

"We can meet at other times for dinner and hang out,” he said. “Tomorrow we both are defending our own badges and that is the way it is. When you face a friend as a team, as a player, you only want one thing, for your team to win and that will be the case tomorrow."

Van Nistelrooy made two appearances at Ibrox as a player – he was on the losing side with PSV in 1999 and helped Manchester United record a narrow victory in 2003 - in the Champions League group stages.

He knows from personal experience that the Glasgow stadium’s reputation as being a challenging venue for visiting teams is well deserved.

However, he has also been impressed by how well Van Bronckhorst has done since taking over from Steven Gerrard last year and appreciates that his charges, who needed extra-time to overcome Monaco in the third qualifying round, will need to be at their best to avoid defeat.

Asked about his outings at Ibrox, he said: “I have got to dig deep because it was quite a while ago. For me, I am focusing on tomorrow rather than the games I have played here. Of course, I will share my experiences of how the atmosphere will be.

“I have said many times before it is a special fanbase. They support their team in an unbelievable way. As our own fans do. You saw our fans in the last game. They lifted us, they carried us through to extra-time. They really gave us wings.

“So we know what it is like to be supported in this way. That is why we can relate to the support here and what it does to a team. In that sense, we are prepared.

“But above all that, I see a squad of fantastic players. I see young lads and experienced players playing very well together in a very recognisable style under Gio. The team is developing. They got to the Europa League final and were very close to winning it. It was an amazing achievement and they are building on that.

“We are fully aware of the quality of the players we are facing tomorrow and we have to be 100 per cent prepared in every aspect of the game to do well here. I see a very high quality squad with many options also from the bench.”

Van Nistelrooy believes the Ibrox outing is far more important to PSV’s hopes of clinching a luctrative place in the group stages for the first time since 2018 than the rematch in the Philips Stadium a week tomorrow.

“We have to try and get the maximum out of this match,” he said. “We need to put everything we have practiced into it. I don’t think the important game will be in Eindhoven. The first leg is very important. We are really going to go for it. After that, we have the home match and we will deal with it then.”

PSV winger Cody Gakpo has been linked with Van Nistelrooy’s former club United as well as Arsenal this summer - but the Dutch great is unconcerned about one of his key men being unsettled by ongoing uncertainty over his future.

“For me, Cody is a player that is ours,” he said. “As long as there is no other news then he is ours. He is preparing for the game tomorrow, as our squad is and I am too. For us, it is a huge occasion tomorrow, as it is for Rangers, to try and get into the Champions League. So for us, it is only that we are thinking of.”