For many Dundee United fans, the sign that the Jackie McNamara era at Tannadice had got off to a good start came only 15 seconds into the game, when Johnny Russell fired the Terrors into a 1-0 lead over Rangers on Saturday.
As great as that was, it could have happened under Peter Houston or any manager. For me, the sign that things were on the up came two minutes and fifteen seconds later, when United had to defend a corner.
Unlike Peter Houston, McNamara instructed both Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay Steven to stay out of the box and loiter near the half way line, while the defensive players were told to mark man for man rather than zonal.
And would you believe it, unlike what seemed like the majority of games this season so far, United managed to keep the ball out of the net.
Zonal marking just didn’t work for us, but Peter Houston either didn’t see it or refused to acknowledge it. And by keeping one or two men outside the box when defending corners, it not only means that you have an outball when clearing it from danger (as opposed to it just being punted straight back into the box again by an opposition player), but it also results in the other team having to take more men out of the box to defend against them.
It’s such a simple thing and McNamara must be given credit for identifying the problem immediately.
Beyond that, the game seemed relatively easy for United, with the only problem being a 20 minute period in the second half where they seemed to switch off. In fairness, McNamara only had a couple of days to work with the players, so you can’t expect him to have knocked the Peter Houston enabled mental fragility out of them already.
With good management, the players will gain a greater sense of belief, and with arguably the strongest starting XI outside Celtic to choose from, the good times could be coming back to Tannadice over the next few months.