At half-past eight on February 2nd, I highly doubt I was the only Rangers fan who was riddled with fear about the managerial appointment of Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

After 45 minutes of annihilation, the team looked as if the manager and players had turned up to the wrong game. No press, full-backs horrendously exposed, huge gaps in midfield, and a striker with zero support.

Rangers were pulverised and blown away that night. The coming weeks didn’t bring many better results and the league challenge slipped through Rangers’ fingers, but three months on and van Bronckhorst looks as if he has finally got to grips with this fixture.

Gio has overseen four Old Firm games and each one has seen improvements and tweaks that show a steady evolution.

After the write-off in his first game, there were signs of improvement but ultimately failure in his second against Celtic. Rangers came out of the traps roaring, but two defensively-weak moments were enough to kill off a team struggling to cope without Alfredo Morelos.

The cup final showed the biggest sign of progression. Rangers pressed and harried a Celtic team that didn’t like such an intense level of scrutiny. Despite the 120 minutes in the previous Thursday, Rangers looked the fitter players and ended the game stronger. The deserved extra-time winner showed a powerful sign of improvement to set up a potential first Scottish Cup win in 13 years.

In Sunday’s final Old Firm of 2021-22, Rangers showcased their best football of the season in the fixture. After falling behind and having to ride some luck with other Celtic chances, Rangers grew into the game.

Fashion Sakala was the width of the post away from the perfect second-half performance after a horror show first half. John Lundstram strolled through the game and was the best midfielder on the park by a distance. Rangers were written off by many going in to a game that could have been Celtic’s crowning moment, but these players stood up to the challenge.

Despite an incredible amount of football in the legs and a weakened squad as each fixture progresses, Giovanni has evolved as a Rangers manager. With no recognised striker on the bench and a tough midweek in Leipzig 72 hours earlier, Rangers had no right to be ending the game as the stronger side.

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The Ibrox men currently look fitter and more than the match of Celtic. The tactics have improved with each fixture; Gio added the steel to midfield; got others closer to the striker; he utilised Bassey to nullify the threat from midfield; he brought a match-changing performance out of Sakala while fans screamed for him to be substituted.

The side has even learned to cope without Alfredo Morelos while Sunday even showed signs that they can cope and create chances without Kemar Roofe as well. The squad is currently in poor shape, yet Gio is managing to put together some strong performances despite obvious deficiencies.

Van Bronckhorst’s first seven months in the job have not been without their deserved points of criticism and flaws, but between Europe and domestically, there are signs he is getting to grips with the task at hand.

With the use of hindsight, it was always going to be challenging to have a mid-season transition between managers without some bumps in the road. Those blemishes coincided with some remarkable consistency from Celtic and their strengthening at the ideal moment.

Even with Rangers looking to avoid slipping back into the routine of replacing multiple managers in quick succession, Gio has earned a proper shot at managing Rangers on merit. The Old Firm matches show how he is developing, but the real managerial know-how has been on show in Europe where Rangers realistically sit 90 minutes away from a European final.

From naivety and humiliation in February, three months later Giovanni van Bronckhorst is still capable of achieving something truly special in his first season at Ibrox. To take a squad assembled by a different manager to a European semi-final is fantastic - to make the final would be truly sublime.

The Dutchman has arguably still to finish his apprenticeship as Rangers manager, but the support will end the season with a great deal more faith than the fixtures at the turn of the year brought.

When the dust settles on this season, the attention instantly turns to replicating that strength over 38 league games. The level of scrutiny on van Bronkchorst will never drop, and the best Rangers managers thrive in knowing exactly that.