If ever a man put on a display that screamed “pick me for Manchester” it was Novo, whose commitment was incredible.

He even had a considerable part in the third goal which made sure of the win after United had made the final portion of the match a little nervous.

He will have to wait and see if he is selected for the UEFA Cup Final but on this evidence he is a certainty.

This was only Novo’s eighth start in the SPL this season but he showed what a tremendous predator he can be with two terrific goals inside 17 minutes.

The first one came after just six minutes when the little Spaniard won a free kick 30 yards out on the left side of the United box when Mark Kerr sent him tumbling to the turf.

With the United defenders paying more attention to Rangers’ big men, Kevin Thomson produced a clever ball to the back post where Novo headed down and into the net past Lukasz Zaluska at his right post.

It was just the start Rangers wanted and they were two ahead 11 minutes later when Novo produced something rather special.

Some may describe the move as route one football but that does not begin to do it justice.

Neil Alexander launched the ball from his penalty area, Daniel Cousin rose above Lee Wilkie to flick it on and Novo used his pace to burst past Mihael Kovacevic and collect.

The angle was tight on the left side of the box but Novo only had one thing on his mind and unleashed a sensational left foot shot which flew into the right corner.

Novo might have netted his third in 24 minutes when he was picked out by close friend and fellow countryman Carlos Cuellar with a 50-yard ball which caught the United defence on their heels.

However, his first touch let him down and the ball got away from him a little forcing him into a snap shot which flew well wide.

Ally McCoist, however, did not rebuke the striker. Indeed he applauded him for his endeavour.

The first half was all about Novo, really. His boundless energy meant that the United defence did not have one moment’s peace.

The fans lapped it up as he tracked back to win the ball on a number of occasions.

United, however, threatened to change the tone of Walter Smith’s half-time chat when they nearly broke through in first half injury time.

It was Wilkie, of all people, who slid a pass through to Mark De Vries, who had done little all day, and all of a sudden the Dutchman had Alexander in his sights.

His strike was strong and true, but Alexander got both gloves to it to push the ball wide and the danger was cleared.

There was some concern six minutes into the second half when Thomson indicated he could not continue with a foot injury.

And that meant a debut for former under-19s captain Dean Furman who was sent on as a direct replacement.

The South African midfielder almost made an impact with some quick thinking in 61 minutes.

Cousin won a free kick when Wilkie barged into the back of him and Furman played it quickly, spotting Novo in space on the left side and suddenly it all opened up.

Novo burst forward and tried to find the right corner but pushed his shot a foot wide.

The goal frame then denied Rangers when Novo’s corner was flicked on by Cousin and then it broke for Christian Dailly who tried to measure a shot to the left corner but it smacked off the post just below the bar.

A goal at this stage would have settled things, but as it was Rangers were still not safe and that point was exacerbated when United had the ball in the net in 71 minutes.

Davie Weir deflected Danny Swanson’s shot past Alexander but linesman Stuart Macaulay flagged David Robertson offside.

It was a second escape for Rangers because United might have had a penalty in 56 minutes when Noel Hunt went sprawling in the box in a challenge with Weir.

In 76 minutes they did not survive, however, when United pulled a goal back. Grainger’s ball from the left came a long way but no-one dealt with it and De Vries powered a header into the left corner.

It made for a more nervous finish than was anticipated but the points were clinched in injury time.

Appropriately it was the tireless Novo who started it all by keeping the ball in play on the left and pushing it forward for Ferguson.

The captain burst into the box then cut the ball back perfectly for Jean-Claude Darcheville who swept a left foot shot into the net.

Manchester here we come!

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