As I watched the last few minutes of the Celtic vs Dundee United game on Saturday, the thought “Well at least we’ll get a draw” passed through my mind.
That’s the way of it when United play Celtic in Glasgow – they just can’t get over the final hurdle.
But the encouraging thing is that we’re getting ever closer.
Rather than a backs to the wall performance where we would have been lucky to escape Parkhead with 3 points, I thought United’s play merited the victory, and but for a rushed kick out from Radoslaw Cierzniak that surrendered possession, and an admittedly well placed header from Charlie Mulgrew (I’m assuming his ridiculous hairstyle allows the ball to travel from his head at very strange angles) we would have run out worthy winners.
Unfortunately, rather than enjoying the performance and being genuinely excited about a talented group of youngsters playing under a tactically astute manager, certain elements within the United support – you know the type – decided to react to the result by logging on to the fans forums and turning on Brian Graham.
Now sure, Graham should have buried that chance, but that was one mistake in a game where he otherwise played pretty well.
I’ve never really understood the mentality of supporters who decide whether a player is good enough or not after a mere handful of performances. Clearly this is not a Rory Boulding signing; Brian Graham is not playing for us because there’s nobody else. No, Graham is deemed good enough by McNamara to start these games ahead of the utterly unimpressive David Goodwillie. If the gaffer rates him, then that’s good enough for me. And considering his goalscoring record last season, I’ve no doubt he’ll turn out to be a useful member of the squad. Lest we forget that a certain Jon Daly took a long, long time to get going for us back in the day?
Graham has started just two league games, and both have been in terrific team performances where he has played a part, even if he hasn’t scored. And it’s not just that, he’s clearly improving physically compared to his early substitute performances where he was all too easily knocked off the ball by opposing defenders.
Personally, I think that if he’d managed to score either against St. Mirren or Inverness CT, he’d have buried that one, but the pressure of the moment got to him.
But to me, the measure of the man is how he reacts to it. Like against St. Mirren, Graham just picked himself up and carried on. I like his attitude and I like his style.
Anyway, besides the contentious subject of Brian Graham, there’s plenty for United fans to be cheerful about right now…
The Team Selections
I’ve been very happy with the team selections from Jackie McNamara as of late. Personally – as anyone who follows me on twitter will know – I don’t particularly rate Sean Dillon or Keith Watson, as they make the same mistakes all too often and have been keeping better players out of the starting 11. It’s a brave manager who is happy to drop his captain – especially on a day where his kids are the mascots – but McNamara has shown that he’ll always pick the best team for the occasion. To me, Wilson and Souttar are a better choice.
I must admit I hadn’t really focussed on this before Pat Nevin pointed it out, but I love United’s high pressing tactics. Whether it’s St. Mirren or Celtic, McNamara sends his players out to press the opposition high up the pitch. And what happens? The defenders panic and surrender possession. It requires fit players, but McNamara has them at his disposal.
Apart from that, the team are just playing a fantastic, flowing style of football. Can you remember when some tactical geniuses were calling for the manager to revert to a 4-4-2 because “Needing time to gel is a myth?” I can.
The Sensibility of John Souttar
It seems like United aren’t just bringing through talented young players, but sensible ones too. As much as the club would benefit from £700k, I’m delighted that John Souttar understands his career is better served by playing regular football and learning his trade at Tannadice, rather than simply chasing the cash as soon as he can and fading into obscurity when a side like Sunderland – who could easily be playing Championship football next season – never give him a chance.
Souttar strolled through the game at Parkhead and has a genuine chance of becoming a top class player in the future.
Of course, having said that, Everton are now rumoured to be interested with a seven figure fee. Let’s see how the resolve of both the player and the club are tested this time…
The Re-emergence of John Rankin
Without Willo Flood there to get in his way, John Rankin has recaptured the form that made him one of the best players at Tannadice in his first season with us. Even when compared against the more skillful and/or technical forward players, Rankin was clearly the man of the match against St. Mirren last week.
It’s good to have him back to his best.
What a find he has been, eh? I’ll leave the discussion about his upcoming charges for another time, but if he continues his form and is free to play for us, Nadir has the potential to be our best foreign signing since Kjell Olofsson.
Youngsters Signing On For The Future
Finally, today saw four young United starlets – including the aforementioned Souttar and Wonderkid Ryan Gauld – sign new deals with the club extending their Tannadice stay further into the future.
For United to secure such talented youngsters on long-term deals is great for both the club and for Scottish football.
If we can keep these young players together – and you’d imagine the only way they would leave would be for a significant transfer fee – we could have a seriously strong side in the next couple of seasons.
So chin up Arabs; I know that the default position is to find something or someone to moan about, but the future is looking very bright at Tannadice!