This time around, the Scottish champions head into their Scottish Premier League clash with Craig Levein's men in very different circumstances.
Off-field financial worries continue to dominate newspaper column inches, while results on the park have not been particularly inspiring either.
Last week's draw with Hibernian saw Rangers surrender top spot in the SPL and Smith has targeted the meeting with United as the game to steer their campaign back on track.
He said: "We haven't started the season to the level we finished last season and we just need to try to get back to that level.
"Our players have set a terrific standard for themselves and we have only lost one league game this year so we just have to make sure we pick up and keep going.
"We have had too many draws recently, although we have had some tough games. The one we face on Sunday will be a big one for us.
"Dundee United are only three points behind us in the league and, if they can make up that gap, that will be a significant one for them.
"We always have tough games up there. We won the championship there at the end of last season and that was probably our best performance there since I came back.
"We will need something like that on Sunday if we are going to do anything especially after their disappointment at getting knocked out of the cup the other night."
Rangers enjoyed victory in the City of Discovery earlier in the week when they dumped Dundee to progress to the semi-finals of the Co-operative Insurance Cup.
Youngsters John Fleck, Danny Wilson and Jordan McMillan impressed in the 3-1 win at Dens Park and Smith believes his younger players could now be ready to make the step up to the top team.
He said: "When you've got the younger players, it's just a matter of when you put them in. I'm maybe a little too careful in exposing them to playing for Rangers.
"I didn't feel this season we were playing to the level we did last season and it's always more difficult bringing them in at that stage.
"But it doesn't seem to be bothering them too much. John Fleck has been around our team for a wee while now.
"He finished the second half of the game the other night in his proper position, his best position, and he played very well. He has gained experience and is ready to come into the team now whenever the opportunity occurs.
"Danny Wilson is the same. He just had to show he could come in and handle it and he did so the other night and has shown he is maybe ready to step up if required."
Smith believes the introduction of homegrown players could help rid the team of what he has described as "stagnation" but is cautious of putting too much pressure on Rangers' youngsters.
"Certainly it would help," he said. "But at a club like this, it's always difficult for the younger ones to come in.
"It doesn't matter what anyone says, it is difficult for them to come in and play at a consistent level. There is a lot of pressure placed on them.
"It's unfair to put that burden on them but it would certainly help us and is helping us if we show we are prepared to put them in. The most important thing is that we put them in at the right time and the club continues winning."