There was a sense of poignancy about Charlie Mulgrew scoring on his second Dundee United home debut.
His fine first-half free-kick earned United a 1-0 Premier Sports Cup Group B win over Arbroath on Saturday – a goal that came 15 years after his last in tangerine.
Simultaneously, a lot and not very much has changed since a 19-year-old Mulgrew notched a double in a 4-2 defeat to Inverness at Tannadice on February 18, 2006.
His life, married with kids, and career – taking in stops as Scotland captain and Celtic star – are entirely different now from his loan spell at United.
However, the ground, for example, is untouched. Much like defender Mulgrew’s sentiments for the club.
Recalling the goals in his first spell with the Terrors, the 35-year-old said: “Yeah – 15 years.
Charlie delighted to be back scoring at old haunt Tannadice
“I remember it here and it was similar sort of situation.
“It was a shot that was meant to be a cross and it went into the bottom corner against Mark Brown.
“It’s odd but also a great feeling to be back here.
“I’m happy to be here, I want to give everything I can and prove I’m still hungry.
“I want to do the best I can for this club and make sure we’re as successful as possible.
“It’s changed a lot – football’s changed in general.
“For starters, we’ve got a training ground we train at every day.
“There’s sport science in place we never had at the time, fitness coaches, GPS to track your movements and sprints in games – so it’s a lot more professional now.
“The food’s a lot better!
“It’s moving forward like football is in general.
“There’s still a couple of people here on the staff from my first spell and the stadium hasn’t changed too much.
“I’m delighted to be back and scoring but the most important thing is the win and we’re happy with it.”
‘I knew when I hit it, I hit it well’
As for his winner against the Red Lichties, it was an adaptation of a training ground move Tangerines No 2 Liam Fox had been drilling with the players.
Mulgrew spotted Arbroath No 1 Derek Gaston too far to the left of his goal and curled an effort over the wall and into the bottom right corner.
The final outcome was pleasing for the experienced campaigner.
He added: “It’s a set piece we’ve worked on.
“I’m not meant to shoot, I’m meant to cross it, but I noticed the keeper was creeping a wee bit so I thought I’d have a go.
“It paid off, I caught it well and was just a bit too far for the keeper to get back.
“I knew when I hit it, I hit it well.
“It’s something I always look for when I’m over a free-kick.
“You probably should cross but I always look to see what the keeper’s doing.
“I back myself so I was thankful to see it go in. I’m delighted with it.”
Aberdeen the target for Mulgrew
Although pleased with their 100% winning start to the season – United have won their opening three cup games against Kelty Hearts, Elgin and Arbroath – Mulgrew is relishing the Premiership’s big kick off.
They play East Fife tomorrow in their final Group B game, with the Tangerines all but in the knockout stages of the League Cup for the first time since 2017, but Aberdeen on August 1 is the target now for Mulgrew.
He commented: “That’s the most important thing.
“No disrespect to the teams we’ve played but we know we’ll be stepping it up a level when it comes to the Premiership.
“It’s about realising that, looking back on these games and seeing what we can do better when we do come up against these teams.”