What has gone wrong for Dundee United with club on brink of relegation?

By Sports Desk May 25, 2023

Dundee United stand on the brink of the drop following Wednesday’s 3-0 home defeat by Kilmarnock.

To avoid automatic relegation from the cinch Premiership, United need to beat Motherwell at Fir Park and hope Killie beat Ross County on Sunday while gaining eight goals on the Staggies.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what has gone wrong in United’s third season back in the Premiership after finishing fourth last term.

Instability in the dugout

United have had six managers since American businessman Mark Ogren purchased a controlling stake in December 2018, and three this season alone. Jack Ross was sacked after just seven games in charge and his assistant, Liam Fox, was promoted before leaving the role in late February with Jim Goodwin taking charge until the end of the season. There was further change around the time Fox departed as sporting director Tony Asghar left his role.

European nightmare

United beat AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League in their first home match of the season but their campaign began to unravel during the return trip to the Netherlands when they conceded seven goals – six of them in a 25-minute spell. The shell-shock appears to have lasted and more heavy defeats have followed. United lost 3-0 at home to both St Mirren and Kilmarnock, suffered a club-record 9-0 home defeat by Celtic and were thrashed 4-0 by Ross County.

Goalkeeping problems

United signed one-cap Australia international Mark Birighitti from Central Coast Mariners to replace Celtic-bound Benjamin Siegrist but the 32-year-old has never really recovered from a poor start. Birighitti lost his place after conceding 11 goals in two matches but his replacement, Carljohan Eriksson, let in 12 in the next two games. Birighitti regained his place and United allowed Eriksson to join Nordsjaelland on loan in January without signing a replacement. Birighitti lost his place again after gifting St Johnstone a late winner but 21-year-old Jack Newman let in four goals in Dingwall on his full debut. Birighitti was again dropped following his part in a terrible opening goal for Livingston and Newman was back in goal on Wednesday night.

Lack of bite

United have a host of ball-playing midfielders including Ian Harkes, Jamie McGrath, Craig Sibbald, Peter Pawlett, Dylan Levitt and Arnaud Djoum but they have lacked a ball-winner in the centre of the park since losing Jeando Fuchs and then Calum Butcher. The problem appeared glaringly obvious as United crumbled in Alkmaar but with Asghar seemingly taking a significant role in player recruitment, nothing was done about it.

Where were the goals coming from?

United signed Tony Watt from Motherwell in January last year but he only managed one goal, against his former club, to add to the 10 goals he netted in claret and amber that season. They brought in former Scotland striker Steven Fletcher before the start of this campaign and sold Nicky Clark to St Johnstone. Watt struggled for game time before being allowed to join St Mirren on loan on the final day of the January window while he was locked on four league goals alongside Fletcher. The 36-year-old has since doubled his season tally but is the only experienced forward on the books with support coming from Rory McLeod, who turned 17 in February.

Leadership issues

Captain Ryan Edwards endured a struggle with his own form and has largely been out of the team since early February while 37-year-old Charlie Mulgrew admitted he found it a challenge to balance a coaching role with playing duties. The difficulties in turning around their fortunes have been evident within games and also during lengthy runs where negativity has lingered. United conceded 24 goals during a five-match losing streak in August, went 11 games without a win following a mini-revival after the World Cup and have now lost four matches on the trot after appearing to turn the corner with a hat-trick of wins.

Related items

  • New York Red Bulls v Charlotte FC: Smith not worried about goalless run New York Red Bulls v Charlotte FC: Smith not worried about goalless run

    Charlotte FC head coach Dean Smith says his team will continue to work on their lack of goal threat as they prepare to travel to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.

    Charlotte sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Red Bulls after going unbeaten in their last five matches.

    However, their last two outings have finished 0-0 against LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union as they managed just six shots on target combined in those games.

    Asked how he approaches a situation like that, Smith said: "We talk openly, review all the games and the fact is that we probably haven't worked the goalkeeper enough.

    "We've spoke about that and what we feel we can do to improve that. We've had chances, and we probably haven't done as well as we could do with those, so that's something we'll continue to work on

    "It's going to be a tough game [against the Red Bulls] because they're a tough team."

    The Red Bulls are coming off a 10-day break after their derby defeat to New York City FC on May 19, and sit fifth in the table.

    Head coach Sandro Schwarz said: "The performance [against NYCFC] wasn't the best, and we weren't able to create chances to score and to get three points.

    "We want more, and we have to improve a lot, but this is normal. We need time, but the mentality, the behaviour, they adapt very quick and very well.

    "We were disappointed to lose the derby game, but that happens. Heads up, we have to come back stronger and take the next opportunity."


    New York Red Bulls – Cameron Harper

    Harper scored New York's lone goal in their last match, his third straight match with a goal. He is the first Red Bulls player to score in three straight regular-season matches since Patryk Klimala in 2021, and the last Red Bulls player to score in four straight league games was Bradley Wright-Phillips in July-August 2017.

    Charlotte – Kristijan Kahlina

    Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five consecutive regular-season matches, the only team to do so in MLS this season. The only team since 2008 to keep a clean sheet in six straight games within a single regular season was New York City FC in May 2022, and Kahlina will be looking to equal that record.


    The Red Bulls have lost only one of their six all-time meetings with Charlotte in all competitions, a 2-0 road defeat in June 2022. New York have won three of their four home matches against Charlotte (D1), scoring multiple goals in each match, including a 5-2 win in last year's playoffs.

    The Red Bulls are unbeaten in eight straight home matches dating back to last season (W5 D3, incl. playoffs). New York have not had a longer home unbeaten run in MLS play since a nine-match run from August 2018 to March 2019.

    Meanwhile, Charlotte won 1-0 at Chicago in their last away match after a seven-match winless run on the road in all competitions. Charlotte have never recorded back-to-back away wins in all competitions before.


    New York Red Bulls – 53%

    Draw – 23.9%

    Charlotte – 23.1%

  • Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC: Reds keep growing under Herdman Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC: Reds keep growing under Herdman

    Toronto FC head coach John Herdman admits his team still have some growing to do as they travel to Philadelphia Union on Wednesday.

    Despite losing three of their last four MLS games – winning the other 5-1 at home to CF Montreal – Toronto sit sixth in the Eastern Conference on 22 points with a very balanced record.

    They have won seven and lost seven of their league games, drawing the other one, and have both scored and conceded 24 goals.

    After conceding late in their 4-3 loss to Cincinnati, Herdman says his team need to put more work into their defensive side of the game.

    "It's that level of concentration, that level of discipline that championship teams are able to bring to games," Herdman said.

    "Knowing your job and delivering your job in high-pressure moments where you stay concentrated for long periods of time, that was the message [this week].

    "I think collectively as a group they recognized it. And they welcomed it. They know we're growing. They know we’re on a bit of a journey."

    Philadelphia are four points off a final series place in eighth with 18 points and are unbeaten in their last two matches after failing to win any of the previous six.

    Asked about the test his side will face against Toronto, the Union head coach Jim Curtin said they are a "much-improved team.

    "Really well organized, really well coached. A dangerous team."


    Philadelphia Union – Daniel Gazdag

    Gazdag has been involved in eight goals (four goals, four assists) in three home matches against Toronto FC, recording multiple goal contributions in each match.

    Toronto FC – Lorenzo Insigne

    After recording two assists against Montreal last week, Insigne had a goal and an assist on Saturday, the second player, along with Federico Bernardeschi, to contribute to multiple goals in consecutive matches for Toronto this season.


    The Union have won each of their last four home matches against Toronto by a combined score of 16-2. Philadelphia had won just four of their first 11 home matches against the Reds (D3 L4).

    However, the Union have lost four consecutive home matches for the first time in club history. Philadelphia had suffered three defeats in their previous 59 matches at Subaru Park before this run.

    Meanwhile, Toronto nearly drew with FC Cincinnati on Saturday, losing 4-3 to a goal in the third minute of stoppage time. Toronto have drawn only one of their last 36 matches in all competitions dating back to last June (W11 L24).


    Philadelphia Union – 67.7%

    Draw – 18.9%

    Toronto FC – 13.4%

  • Disheartening and gut-wrenching: Price condemns killing of former Boys' Town player Rafiek Thomas Disheartening and gut-wrenching: Price condemns killing of former Boys' Town player Rafiek Thomas

    President of Boys' Town Football Club Andrew Price says he is struggling to come to grip with the brutal slaying of former player Rafiek “Fari” Thomas, who was gunned down at his home  in Denham Town on Tuesday.

    It is reported that about 4:40am, unknown assailants gained access to Thomas’ residence, in the troubled West Kingston community, and shot him several times in his bed. Another man was also injured during the home invasion.

    Thomas, 40, was well-known for his goal scoring exploits in local football, especially during his time at Boys’ Town and Tivoli Gardens. He also represented Harbour View, Waterhouse, and Humble Lion throughout his career, before returning to the Boys’ Town. He scored the match-winning goal for the Collie Smith Drive-based club when they copped the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) Wray and Nephew Championship last season.

    They retained the title with a penalty shoot-out win over Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) on Sunday, but their celebrations were cut short by the tragic news, which has plunged the football fraternity  into mourning.

    Price expressed condolence to Thomas’s family and friends, as he remembered the player as passionate, inspirational and humble.

    “It is so sad when you hear another life snuffed out through crime and violence in inner city communities. Rafiek Thomas was an inspirational player, very skillful, and a prolific goal scorer. I enjoyed coaching him. He was a gem to coach, always unassuming, humble individual, so I'm taking this very, badly to awake to this type of news after the club's triumphant Sunday night it is just really disheartening and gut-wrenching,” Price said.

    “Such a talented individual; he was always willing to assist, to impress, to guide the youngsters and even at his age, he was still a prolific goal scorer. One of the last goals he scored was a year ago in the finals of the Championship against Constant Spring. So we will remember Rafiek for how passionate he was both on and off the field. It's sad to hear that his life has ended in this tragic manner and it reinforces the need to engage football as a socializing effect in communities,” he added.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.