Going in to Saturday’s Scottish Cup Semi Final game against Rangers at Ibrox, I was confident, but a little voice in the back of my mind was telling me that it felt wrong to be.
I know this isn’t the Rangers team of old; after all, they are in the third tier of Scottish Football with a rag-tag group of former SPFL Premiership players mostly past their prime, and in recent weeks they’ve struggled against Albion Rovers and lost the Ramsdens Cup Final to Raith Rovers. It still didn’t feel right though.
You just don’t go into a game against Rangers at Ibrox (three cheers for neutrality, eh?) and expect victory; it’s just not how Scottish Football fans are programmed to think.
So while I was looking forward to it and indeed was expecting victory, I felt it wouldn’t be that simple.
As it turned out, I was right to be cautious but at the same time, my expectations became reality.
Saturday’s game was at times a nervous affair for Dundee United fans. We didn’t play well and Rangers – in spite of being an obviously poorer team – gave it their best shot and had the United players under pressure for large spells of the game.
Ultimately though, it was clear that they were toothless up front, with Jon Daly unable to cope on his own against the United defence.
United were the deserved winners in spite of not playing particularly well themselves, but that is – as many pundits have said over the last couple of days – the sign of a better team.
Rangers – for all the money they foolishly spent on their players – never looked likely to score from open play after United took the lead; their only hope would be from set-pieces. And through a combination of bad refereeing and clumsy tackling from the Tannadice players, Rangers were given more than enough chances to do just that, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Ibrox men.
You can analyse the game all day long, but the difference between the two sides was clear; one team was full of young, exciting and talented players who had been given a chance by a progressive manager, while the other contained mostly overpaid and over-the-hill ex-Premiership players who are only going to get worse (and yet, bizarrely, they are all going to get paid more next season if the club doesn’t slip into administration again).
If I was a Rangers fan, I’d be questioning why that is. Is it that young players are unable to perform in front of an intimidating and often unforgiving Ibrox crowd? Is it that Ally McCoist – a manager worth around 1% of his ridiculous salary – can’t identify young talent (hey, Rangers played against Andy Robertson four times last season and still thought the likes of Steven Smith and Ricky Foster were better signing candidates) or is it that the products of Murray Park just aren’t good enough?
But I’m not a Rangers fan; I’m a Dundee United fan, and while they no doubt have weeks/months/years of riveting Dave King related news stories to look forward to (cos that stuff never gets old, does it?) I’ve got a Scottish Cup Final in my future.
And really….I don’t think anyone could have expected anything else.