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By ESPN Staff

Le Guen leaves Rangers by mutual consent

Paul Le Guen tonight called time on 72 hours of chaos at Rangers by walking away from the club and insisting his departure was 'the best solution for all concerned'.

The Frenchman lasted just seven months at Ibrox, experienced few highs and too many lows to mention.

He had his fate effectively sealed by falling out with the man with the most influence - bar executive chairman Sir David Murray - at the club.

At a stroke, Barry Ferguson had his path cleared to return to the first team, having been ruthlessly axed by Le Guen for Tuesday's match at Motherwell, where angry supporters gave the French manager a torrid time.

There is no guarantee the hugely popular Ferguson will return to the team as captain, but his future now looks secure in Glasgow.

That was certainly not the case before Rangers confirmed Le Guen's exit at 2.40pm this afternoon.

Le Guen said: 'I am disappointed to leave the club, but I think it is the best solution for all concerned.

'I would like to thank all the people who helped me and my team during my spell in Scotland.

'In particular I would like to thank the directors who at all times gave me their total support.'

The Rangers board did indeed back Le Guen, handing the 42-year-old a three-year contract and affording him funds to mould a team capable of challenging Celtic's supremacy in the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

Alex McLeish's side finished a miserable third last season, but this season has been scarcely any better, perhaps worse. At least under McLeish there was the thrill of Champions League progress. Reaching the last 32 of the UEFA Cup has not captured the imagination to the same extent.

His signings - especially Filip Sebo and Lionel Letizi - were unimpressive, and there has been scant improvement in the team's performances.

The lack of progress was demonstrated by the two defeats to Inverness Caledonian Thistle this season, and the CIS Cup capitulation to First Division outfit St Johnstone.

As Rangers began their search for a new boss - with Scotland boss Walter Smith already being heavily backed - they are 17 points off the pace in the SPL, reduced to scrapping it out with Aberdeen and Hearts for second place and the prize of a place in Champions League qualifying.

Murray discussed the turbulent atmosphere at Ibrox with both Ferguson and Le Guen this week.

He said: 'Having met with Paul it was clear that in the interests of the club and all concerned we agreed jointly to him stepping down as manager.

'We are all clearly disappointed with our current circumstances and will now focus on securing a suitable replacement.'

Le Guen was hugely successful in French football with Lyon, helping them win three successive Ligue 1 titles, and will probably return to management in his home country.

He at least made what he considered to be a principled exit.

When he dropped Ferguson, and ruthlessly stripped the Scotland skipper of the club captaincy he held so dear, Le Guen conceded he was taking a massive gamble.

He described his position as 'precarious', and explained after the Motherwell victory: 'After that decision, it is not up to me to say if I will be here during the following months.

'If I go, I go. But I want to do my job with respect.'

Le Guen claimed Ferguson had attempted to exert undue influence on the Rangers squad, and argued that the 28-year-old was undermining his authority.

He also cast doubt on whether Ferguson could ever play for the Ibrox club again, while he remained in charge.

It appeared that one of the two men would have to leave, the club having becoming too small for the pair to co-exist.

But Ferguson had no intention of moving elsewhere, as his brother and agent testified, and Le Guen's departure makes him the shortest-serving Rangers manager in the club's history.

Reserve-team coach Ian Durrant will take charge of training tomorrow, and may also be in charge when Rangers play Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup on Sunday.

Beyond that, Smith may return to the club where he won seven SPL titles as manager.

Smith is contracted to the Scottish Football Association, who would be reluctant to release him given the national team's impressive start to their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Reports that Scotland coach Ally McCoist was meeting with Murray this evening were unconfirmed.

However after a failed experiment with Le Guen's continental methods there would be no-one too surprised to see Rangers revert to two of their favourite sons.