Callum McGregor is the Celtic's metronome, both on and off the pitch.

In a matchday scenario, he keeps the team ticking and in time with whatever the manager asks of them on a game-by-game basis. Off of it, he is a tremendous ambassador for the club, with the captain regularly praised by past and present managers for his role in galvanising the team and creating squad unity amongst a group containing many different nationalities and personalities.

Focusing purely on the on-field duties of McGregor, though, the midfielder admittedly has had a poor start to the season by his own lofty standards when leading up to last Sunday’s Glasgow Derby. When witnessing Celtic – both in the flesh or through a television screen – it is easy to take McGregor’s performances for granted, as you simply expect big things from the Scotland international. That is why any drop in performances is so clear and obvious when he is not playing to the level you are accustomed to seeing.

McGregor – much like a lot of other players in the Celtic team – have found readjusting to Brendan Rodgers’ methods challenging. This is down to the fact that Ange Postecoglou had such radical ideas for how the midfield should be utilised during a game. Perhaps the most outlandish tactic the now-Tottenham Hotspur boss had was to play the full-backs in an inverted fashion, which allowed the likes of Greg Taylor and Anthony Ralston the freedom to flood the middle of the park with bodies in order to overwhelm the opponent.

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So far in Rodgers’ second reign at the club, the full-backs have been far more traditional in the way they are set out and told to play. With less of a license to come inside the midfield and support the likes of McGregor, Matt O’Riley or David Turnbull, this has meant more of an onus has been given back to the likes of the Celtic captain to create opportunities for the attackers. Indeed, a very different style to the one many were used to under Postecoglou.

Particularly in the games against Kilmarnock and St Johnstone in the Viaplay Cup and the Scottish Premiership respectively, McGregor was not the dominant force in midfield that many have come to expect from Celtics number 42. Many pundits – including former Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson – have concluded that if you can stop McGregor from playing his game, then you can stop Celtic. Admittedly, both Derek McInnes and Steven MacLean were able to do this to good effect in their teams’ successes against the champions.

With an admittedly slow start to the early part of the season – coupled with the two aforementioned slips in two different domestic competitions in terms of results – There was concern beginning to creep in regarding the level at which McGregor was playing in this campaign. Had he lost half a yard of pace? Was there that same fire in the belly of the captain following the return of Rodgers? Will he be able to up his game for the big matches both domestically and in Europe going forward?

It has to be said, though, what a difference 90 minutes can make in the general public’s perception of a player. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the previous two performances, Celtic’s captain put in a standout performance against Rangers, as he led his side to a 1-0 victory at Ibrox last Sunday. This has been the performance that those attached to the club have been waiting for from the 30-year-old. Back to the McGregor of old, the midfielder was essentially given the freedom of Govan to operate in the engine room of the pitch, where he dominated proceedings.

His manager – arguably the man who made him the player he is today – was just as impressed with the captain’s performance. He told The Celtic Way’s Tony Haggerty: “I said to him at half-time, that’s the guy I used to come here with when we won.

“That’s Callum McGregor, a big personality who takes the ball and passes the ball and makes tackles and intercepts and blocks and gets the rhythm in our game. He was absolutely brilliant today. I am delighted for him.”

He was not the only midfielder to contribute massively on the day, as O’Riley’s sparkling performance was notable yet unsurprising, given his form so far this season. Both midfielders – as well as Liam Scales – were all likely in contention for Man of the Match, with the stand-in defender getting the nod for his heroic contributions in what was a makeshift backline.

Despite goalscorer Kyogo Furuhashi and the aforementioned Scales both effectively getting all of the limelight, it was the double-pivot of McGregor and O’Riley who arguably were the difference in the outcome of this match. In previous games, the captain has been paired alongside both Turnbull and Holm in the double-pivot, but it seems as if he is more comfortable alongside the Danish midfielder instead. Perhaps this was a one-off, and O’Riley was brought in because of the tireless off-the-ball defending that he contributes to the team game-in game-out.

Celtic’s midfield is about to get a lot busier over the next few weeks, especially with the arrival of Paulo Bernardo from Benfica and the return of Reo Hatate from injury. This could prompt a selection headache for Rodgers, as he looks to accommodate a multitude of midfielders in and around the first team in the weeks and months ahead. Whatever trio he selects, it is pivotal that he gets the best out of McGregor, as his performances are key for the success of the team moving forward.

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Rumours and speculation of McGregor’s footballing demise are – as expected – wholly premature and lacking in validity. After a tough start to the season form-wise, Celtic’s captain looks to be back in form and ready for the challenges that await both him and the team he leads on the park. It is up to Rodgers, his coaching staff and McGregor himself to both facilitate and maintain the standards set by the latter in Sunday’s performance.

Already a bona fide legend of the club, McGregor’s standing as one of Celtic’s greatest modern-day midfielders is already secured. It is now up to the player to further consolidate this position with even more success this campaign.

Above all else, McGregor the metronome is the one that truly makes Cel-tick.