Dundee United faced a huge challenge on Saturday. Playing last season’s third best side away from home without their main source of goals, Micky Mellon was left with an uphill task from the start against Motherwell.
The new boss has taken the reigns from Robbie Neilson for the 2020/21 Premiership season. Fans of former club Tranmere Rovers praised his name whilst United were optimistic about their future with Mellon.
On the basis of Saturday, Tannadice supporters have every right to be excited about Mellon.
The Arabs boss adapted superbly to the circumstances at Fir Park. On the whole, Dundee United can’t be as gung-ho as they were at times in the Championship, but this was perhaps a game where it was especially important to be pragmatic.
Motherwell’s main sources of joy last season came from hitting sides on the counter with pace from the flanks. Mellon quickly disarmed that tactic by allowing the home side all of the possession they wanted, showed by the fact it was split 60-40 at full time. Whilst United only had two-thirds of the possession Motherwell had, they did far more with it, playing the Steelmen at their own game with good counter-attacks.
A youthful front three of Logan Chalmers, Louis Appere and Luke Bolton did a fantastic job of stepping up in attack for United. They hassled the Well backline all afternoon, forcing some mistakes and creating decent chances for Mellon. In the absence of someone who scored 24 league goals last term, the three of them did an excellent job.
Ian Harkes was particularly impressive in midfield. He won just about every tackle, not allowing Allan Campbell to impose himself on the game and the influential David Turnbull was limited in what he could do.
At the back there were obviously standout performances. Jamie Robson didn’t allow the home side to have any joy on the right flank whilst Mark Reynolds was imperious in the centre of defence, leading by example and scoring a rare goal to seal the win over his former side.
Mellon had to find solutions on Saturday and he more than found some. After a 1-1 draw at home with 10-man St Johnstone on opening weekend, some may have said this United team lacked a slight touch of maturity. This game obliterated that notion as Mellon proved he also has the tactical know-how to prepare the Tangerines for any situation.
Four points from six is an excellent return against two top six sides from last season for United and it sets up a great match with Hibs later on this evening.