2018/19 Championship Mid-Term Report Card – Dundee United

When I write these reviews I always set myself a 500-650 word limit for each team. This is to try and save me time but also to keep it short and sharp. For Dundee United however, please bear with me…

The 2018/19 season was billed as being the most important in the Tannadice club’s history (this is after last season was the most important, and the one before that being the most important, and the one before that being the most important). Intense financial pressures mean that we really are now in a desperate position in terms of needing to win promotion back to the Premiership. The club is still just about hanging on to its fairly hefty operating budget but that will end if we fail, yet again. One thing that may provide United with a ray of hope is the potential takeover that has been on the cards for months now.

In May of this year the club failed in the promotion playoffs against Livingston and in the aftermath of that match the pressure was on Chairman Mike Martin to make the call that would define Dundee United’s immediate future. Most supporters wanted him to sack Csaba Laszlo but instead of getting rid of the Hungarian he did the opposite. He instructed the manager to take the keys to Tannadice and re-shape the club from top to bottom.

What followed was a summer of complete overhaul. Players, staff, contracts and bonuses were all changed at the hands of Laszlo. The idea of having a more methodical and structured approach was probably a good one. We have been guilty of too many changes and a collapse in infrastructure. The idea was good, giving the power to make these changes to a bonkers Hungarian man who had lost the fans and the dressing room, was not. 

After a poor and stuttering start to the season the end-point came as we were thrashed at home by Ross County. Looking back the 5-1 defeat was probably a blessing in disguise as it meant the sacking of Laszlo and the timing also allowed us to move swiftly for Robbie Neilson.

Since the arrival of the former United player it has felt like a totally different club and it does now seem like we are heading in the right direction. We are still under that same financial pressure but we seem to have right man in charge and you would hope that the season still has the potential of turning into a title winning one. Much depends on January and the teams around us but Neilson seems to have made real improvements in his short time at the club.

January Wishlist – A few weeks ago I might have said that one or two quality additions would make a huge difference but I would like to revise that number and add a couple to make it four or five. Realistically we won’t get that many but if we did then I would hope for a goalkeeper, a right-back, a left-back, a sitting midfielder, a winger and maybe a striker if Clark continues to be injury prone. Not too much to ask is it?

Player of the Season (so far) – Csaba Laszlo is a terrible manager who signed a truckload of terrible footballers. However what he did manage to do was pull off a miracle of biblical proportions by identifying and then signing Pavol Safranko. The tireless striker is undoubtedly our player of the season and he has won over the United fans with his aggressive and passionate style of play. Technically he is very good but it is his energy and commitment to the cause that gets fans really excited. The likelihood is that we will not be able to hang on to him for much longer so we should just enjoy him whilst we have him.

Predicted Finish – 1st (what did you expect me to say?!?)

Manager Grade – F. This one is for Csaba Laszlo. 

Manager Grade – A. This one is for Robbie Neilson. Since coming into the club it feels like a weight has been lifted and we are now lucky to have a manager (sorry, head coach) who is passionate, yet calm. He has a presence about him and he has started with style despite a couple of recent blips. It feels like we finally have the right man in the dugout. 

Overall Grade – B. If only we had made the key decisions earlier. Mike Martin probably now knows we waited too long to sack Laszlo and what we have been left with is a decent squad but one that is bloated and with obvious frailties. Robbie Neilson will only be able to take them so far without making his own changes so much depends on January. One big positive has been the resurgence in form and the closing of the gap that was getting worryingly big under Laszlo. This season still has its twists and turns so if United can improve in January and become more focused then we are still capable of a league title.