If you want entertainment, go to the cinema.
The infamous and, perhaps, slightly paraphrased words of Gus MacPherson on his late 2000s St Mirren team – ones Micky Mellon could easily apply to his current Dundee United crop.
Indeed, last Friday’s goalless draw between the sides in Paisley certainly fit the bill, for United in particular.
Unfortunately, for Arabs, the luxury of attending the pictures will have evaded them for much of the last nine months or so.
The coronavirus pandemic has meant they’ve had to make do with pay-per-view streams of their team, in recent times, putting in uninspiring displays.
Their performances, nonetheless, have at least been professional.
The Tangerines are on a five-match unbeaten run, four of which have ended 0-0, and sit fifth in the Premiership table.
Although they are hardly setting the heather alight at the top end of the pitch – that much is well-documented – they are finding a way to be hard to beat.
Their expected goals (xG) against the Buddies was a pitiful 0.09 – meaning they’d have to play the game more than 11 times to score – but, in terms of fighting and battling, the visitors dominated.
United won 52.88% of their duels and made 92 recoveries of the ball, even if they surrendered 57% possession to Jim Goodwin’s side.
The end goal, as it is for all teams, is racking up points. And United don’t seem to care how they do that – just that they do. Particularly, on the road and against tough opponents like Aberdeen and St Johnstone.
Admittedly, much of that has been down to the heroics of goalkeepers Benjamin Siegrist and Deniz Mehmet but their miserliness also owes itself to the way Mellon sets his side up.
Of late, that has meant operating a 3-5-2 system, which turns in a 3-4-1-2 on the break and a 5-3-2 in defence. That has been the way for the past month or so and it’s reaping rewards for United.
Amid the current international and Betfred Cup break, they are comfortably placed in the top six with 17 points after 14 games, and that is, in part, down to desire to win the ball and make telling contributions in defensive situations.
In Paisley, the Tangerines won 59.02% of their defensive duels, 57.35% of their battles in the air, made nine successful slide tackles and an impressive 66 interceptions – 14 of those by Ryan Edwards.
Robson’s contribution should not go unnoticed
For the season as a whole, Jamie Robson particularly impresses. The left-back leads the league in defensive duels and is third for interceptions.
Robson, coupled with experienced heads like Edwards, captain Mark Reynolds, Liam Smith and Calum Butcher in his ranks, Mellon knows he has men at the back he can count on to see games out.
Butcher led the way for United at The SMISA Stadium, alongside Smith, with the pair winning 71% of their duels. Edwards and Reynolds also registered high at 69%.
However, it was Butcher who stood out defensively for the Terrors on the night.
The 29-year-old defensive midfielder won all four of his aerial battles and the same amount of offensive duels on his way to a 100% record.
United remain camped in own half
United’s average position was deep throughout, lending itself well to frustrating the Saints, but the introductions of Marc McNulty and Paul McMullan seemed to push them up the pitch a little more.
It suggests Mellon is happy to keep it tight and stay in games for as long as possible before making his move. With options like that off the bench, you can understand why.
That said, three shots and just one on target is nowhere near good enough for a team pushing on at the top end of the table against a Covid-stricken St Mirren side struggling at the bottom.
The general picture in an attacking sense isn’t great, with United bottom of the pile in the Premiership for touches in the opponents penalty area per 90 minutes.
In attack and defence, however, the Terrors are showing promise in the wide areas they will start to create and bridge the gap from middle to front.
57.14% of their crosses were successful last week while Robson, who made 11 interceptions and won 17 aerial duels, battled hard with St Mirren full-back Richard Tait all night as the Buddies looked to pen United in on the right.
Robson and Tait clashed 24 times down the flanks, the most of any combination of players, and credit must go to the 22-year-old for denying his opponent on numerous occasions.
Indeed United lead the league by some distance in terms of interceptions and rank highly for defensive duels and shots blocked as a team.
If Robson & Co can start to improve that service slightly to the likes of McNulty, Lawrence Shankland and Nicky Clark you would imagine it’s only a matter of time before the goals come for a stoic and solid Dundee United.
In the meantime, though, perhaps stick to a stay-at-home matinee for your thrills on a Saturday afternoon.