Meticulous Micky Mellon’s mind is always on football – so much so if he was to pick his Hampden line-up today he could.
However, with just over a week to go until their Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs, the Dundee United boss says it’s up to the players to force his hand.
Anyone looking to make the starting XI for the last-four clash best perform well against Ross County tomorrow as the Staggies call in at Tannadice.
The Premiership meeting represents the last chance to impress in a game setting before the focus switches to cup football.
Mellon’s keeping his cards close to his chest with regards to the selection for the clash with relegation-threatened County but did say he believes competition for places is “healthy”.
‘I say to them all the time: ‘Make me pick you’’
“I would say I’ve probably already got it in my mind what I want to do,” he said about his semi-final selection.
“I’m pretty clear on that but, of course, that’s if the game was right now.
“There is time between then and now, though, so people can come in and out of form.
“I say to them all the time: ‘Make me pick you’.
“If they do that well that I have to pick them; I’d love them all to try to achieve that.
“That’s healthy for the place. There’s still time between now and the semi-final.”
As for the immediate concern, picking up Premiership points against County tomorrow afternoon, Mellon won’t necessarily make wholesale changes like he did prior to their quarter-final win over Aberdeen last Sunday.
The United boss gave full debuts to kids Kerr Smith and Flo Hoti, with plenty other fringe men getting minutes, in the 3-0 defeat at Kilmarnock last Wednesday.
As ever, it’ll be about fielding a team that gives the Tangerines the best chance of picking up all the spoils.
“We’ll pick the team we think will get us a result and does what the football club needs us to do,” Mellon continued.
“Whether that’s short term or long term, like trying to get young players match time or get the experienced boys minutes in order to keep the fitness levels up.
“We don’t know when we’re going to need them.
“We’ll pick a team accordingly and one which we believe can go out and represent us well.”
European football a ‘massive’ prize but Terrors’ focus is on the here and now
Going all the way and winning the Scottish Cup, for the first time since their 2010 success under Peter Houston, is incentive enough for United.
The lure of guaranteed European football, via either the Europa League or the new Europa Conference League, is just an extra carrot dangling in front of them.
For Mellon, however, continental football isn’t a notion he’s even tempted to graze on with plenty of games still to be played.
“There’s a long, long way to go before I even think about that,” he added.
“There’s a lot of football still to be played and matches that need to be won so racing ahead of yourself and losing your focus would be the wrong thing to do.
“We do what we always do here, and I mean every day, we challenge the players to keep improving.
“We’ll keep doing that and, when the games come along, we want them to show those improvements.
“We need to take care of business and get results before we can start thinking of anything.
“The size of the prizes are massive but we won’t lose our focus. We’ve still got work to do to get better.
“It’s important to keep attacking improvement and taking on moments you can get better in.”
Tangerines aiming to top Pittodrie performance on long-awaited return to Tannadice
Buoyed by their 3-0 win at Pittodrie last weekend, United will return to Tannadice tomorrow for the first time in the league since March 20 (1-0 win over Aberdeen) looking to keep up the momentum.
They’re in a good place right now, losing just once in their last eight games, with gaffer Mellon insisting a new standard has been set that his troops will look to top.
“It’s been a long time hasn’t it?,” the United boss said of their absence from home turf.
“We just had to get on with it, that’s the way the fixtures fell.
“We enjoy playing at Tannadice, our own home turf, so it’ll be good to be back there on Saturday and, hopefully, keep moving forward.
“Football is all about opinions and I’m always very honest.
“We had played well in spells in games, very, very well, and probably not got the credit.
“I’m only backing my players here but they never got the credit they deserved.
“They played 45 minutes at Ibrox and they were brilliant and never got the first goal and the game just ran away from them.
“But they were excellent, it was as good a performance as it was at Aberdeen.
“There are other games, Ross County, Motherwell, and there have been other games where there has been very good periods.
“But because of the size of the game last weekend, people may pick that.
“I think what last Sunday showed was what they’re capable of. It never really surprised me that they put it all together because I know they’re capable of it.
“My job now is to keep pushing it, keep making it better and trying to find that consistency.
“That’s the challenge now, not just hitting that level, but hitting that level most of the time and then wanting to go above it and get better.
“That’s what we’ll always push here and it will always be the challenge to find a way of getting that performance level in every game.
“Ross County gives us an opportunity to see where we’re at, can we get into that zone again and play like we have done during the season in spells? Can we put it together back-to-back?”