Marc McNulty is the first to admit he’s not a natural wide man but the Dundee United striker insists he’s happy to play the role for the benefit of the team.
McNulty lined up on the left of a midfield four against St Mirren last week and on the right against Hibs at the weekend at the behest of manager Micky Mellon.
Although the Tangerines slumped to two defeats and dropped out of the top six for the first time since October, McNulty believes sacrificing his happiness as a ‘No 9’ is for the betterment of the group.
Whether he starts out wide or up top as United head for Motherwell tonight, Premiership points are what matters most to the 28-year-old.
“It’s something I think I can do but if you’re asking me what is my best position and how to get the best out of me it’s definitely playing through the middle,” the Reading loanee said.
“Pretty much all my career I’ve played through the middle and when I’ve played there regularly I’ve scored goals.
“I’ve played wide here and there before but my best position is through the middle.
“The manager knows that. We had a chat before I came and even when I came.
“We speak quite a lot, me and the manager, but sometimes the way he thinks we are going to win games — and how he thinks I can affect a game — is with me in the wide areas.
“But like I said before, if the manager says that to you and he thinks that then you have just got to get on with it.”
Mellon defends decision to play McNulty out wide
Mellon says, due to a lack of options, he’s had no choice but to play McNulty out of position but that they will continue to try different ways to get results.
The United manager said: “We speak all the time and, at the end of the day, everyone has a position.
“I am short of wide players. I wanted to play a version of a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 but I don’t have any wide players.
“I am talking to the Dundee United fans – I don’t have any.
“I have Luke Bolton as an out-and-out probably wide man so who do you have who has the qualities to get you the goals or be a threat from those areas.
“And the only sort of goalscorer type who has the qualities to go by people in wide areas and do a good job is Marc.
“Shankland isn’t that, Clark isn’t that, Louis Appere can do it. . . ish, but I don’t have anyone else.
“Marc has more or most of the qualities to do that and sometimes that happens with players.
“But he does – and I do – see him as a front man.
“It’s not putting a square peg in a round hole but about putting as many goalscorers or match changers in as you can.
“I tried it against Hibs and St Mirren and it didn’t quite work for me.
“We have been and will look at a different way.
“It’s not about me or Marc McNulty, it’s about Dundee United and the team scoring goals.
“So we will try to get back to finding another way to keep clean sheets and also win games.”
‘I’ve struggled at United but strikers must do more’
In a squad, and often a starting XI, that features both Lawrence Shankland and Nicky Clark, United aren’t short of firepower.
However, the Terrors are among the lowest scorers in the league, with former Hibs hitman McNulty insisting he and his fellow strikers must take responsibility for the lack of goals.
Scotland cap McNulty was a regular scorer in his time on loan at Easter Road but has only notched once in tangerine, much to his disappointment.
He added: “You try not and compare your spells at different clubs, all clubs are different.
“I scored a few goals at Hibs and struggled a bit here. I can point the finger and blame other things but I’ve got to look at myself, first and foremost.
“It’s one of them, some weeks I’ve been playing a little bit out of position.
“The gaffer has asked me to play a little bit of a different role. It’s the manager who decides that and I’ve to do what he says. If he asks you to do something then you get on with it.
“Can you do more? Definitely. I’m sure Shanks and Clarky will say the same but I’d say we have three strikers who rely on chances and the team as a whole would say we don’t create enough chances.
“It’s been a bit frustrating but you have to see if you can do more to create chances. Hopefully, once we get that win under our belt, we can go on a little run.”
Confidence not an issue at Tannadice as they look to arrest slump in form
United are seven games without a win as they head west to Fir Park looking to regain their place in the top half of the table.
The Tangerines have occupied the top six for most of the campaign and McNulty says it would be disappointing not the finish the season there.
“It’s very important that we end this run and get a win as soon as possible and start putting more points on the board,” he said.
“I think we’d love to finish in the top six and a club like Dundee United, you should be in the top six. The last few weeks have been frustrating, not winning games, we’ve drawn quite a few.
“You can probably look back on some of the ones we have drawn and say you’d rather win a couple and maybe get beat (in the others).
“It’s been frustrating but we’ve got a good opportunity in the next couple of games coming up.”
Pondering reasons for their slump, of late, McNulty is confident a lack of self-belief is not an issue.
He commented: “I think when you’re not winning games, you’re not as confident as when you are.
“I think for us, the manager and his staff, we’ve got a good group of boys, a pretty confident group of boys and we know it’s not been good enough. We’ll put our hands up and say that.
“But we’re confident it will turn and that we can go on a run.”