AFTER a decent enough start to their return to Premiership football, the wheels fell off for Dundee United when they made the trip Kilmarnock, going down 4-0 to the Ayrshire side.
Trailing 2-0 at half time and pushing to get back in the game, a mistake at the back and an early contender for goal of the season for the Ayrshire side completed a thoroughly miserable day at the office for Micky Mellon’s side. Stats will show that United had the lion’s share of possession and indeed more shots on target and Mellon in his own words was left baffled at the final whistle.
Whatever slant you put on though, there is only one stat that matters and that’s the final score. It was a tough lesson and hard to take for the Tangerines and it’s evident that mistakes at this level will be quickly punished. United need to eradicate them as soon as possible if they are to make any headway this season.
Manager Mellon rued missed opportunities in the Killie game, but one thing is certain watching United and that is that they lack that cutting edge in front of goal in the absence of the injured Lawrence Shankland.
It had all been so different for United on the road, winning their encounters at both Ross County (above) and Motherwell by one-goal margins. At home, single goal defeats to Hibernian and Celtic were both encouraging and battling performances given the expectation that United would spend the majority of these encounters soaking up a lot of pressure. A 1-1 draw on the opening day of the season with St Johnstone saw United leading 1-0 through a Nicky Clark penalty before another error at the back let the Perth side back in the game even after they had been reduced to 10 men. However, given the fact it was the first game back in the top flight it was not that disappointing a result and gave the players and fans a good insight into the standards required to play at this level week-in, week-out.
Mellon has United well organised and playing some nice football with flying wing backs in Jamie Robson and Luke Bolton—on loan from Man City—having the ability to provide the ammunition into the penalty box. Even at this early stage though, depth of squad seems to be an issue and one would hope that the gaffer can use his connections in the lower leagues in England to bring someone in who can put the ball in the back of the net.
An excellent youth set up has been prevalent at Tannadice for many a year and there are some cracking young players coming through who are being given their chance to shine in the starting 11. One of them is the highly-rated, 17-year-old defender Lewis Neilson, who had no fewer than four English premiership scouts running an eye over him during the recent game with Celtic. Reports suggest Everton, Southampton, Leicester and new boys Leeds are potential suitors who are perhaps all hoping to unearth the new Andrew Robertson.
Personal expectations for the season among Arabs would be for United to maintain their Premier League status and at least challenge the teams in and around them. That is in no shape or form meant to be negative, but merely an initial goal to focus on for the club before it can move further forward. In Mellon, fans believe at last that they have found the right man after a series of managerial mishmashes over the years. No disrespect is intended to previous gaffer Robbie Neilson, who did the job he was brought in to do getting the club promoted, but Mellon’s style of play is way more pleasing on the eye.
United’s next game after the international break will be a stern test when they travel to Ibrox for the first meeting in the top flight between the sides since 2012, with their paths only crossing in cup competitions due to both clubs competing in varying divisions of the SPFL in the last eight years. It’s time to roll the sleeves up and get stuck in.