Managerless Dundee United must focus on big games ahead if they want to be back in the Premiership

Dundee United’s assistant manager Laurie Ellis is still unsure of his own future at the club.

Lost in the turmoil of the last few days at Tannadice has been one very important fact — over consecutive weekends Dundee United face two massive fixtures.

Understandably, most fans’ attention was consumed by the news, finally confirmed late Monday, Ray McKinnon’s time as manager is up.

Automatically, that has moved the focus to who his replacement will be and, until the identity of the new boss is confirmed, that has to be the main subject of debate among Arabs.

Ideally, they’ll have the answer by this weekend and the new man will be in the dugout masterminding a way to get the better of Dumbarton at the Your Radio 103FM Stadium.

William Edjenguele (left) watches Scott Fraser battle for the ball during Dundee United’s 1-0 defeat at Dumbarton last year. The Tangerines will be hoping to beat their bogey team on Saturday.

The Sons home patch may have yet another new name but, for the Tangerines, it poses the same old problem — how to win there.

Ultimately, it was the recent slump against Livingston and Inverness Caley Thistle that cost McKinnon his job but, when the board were weighing up their decision, the memory of two defeats at the part-timers last season cannot have helped his case.

They were low points and might just have been the difference between spending a second season in the Championship and an immediate Premiership return.

Finishing third saw United forced to embark on a six-game play-off campaign in a bid to get promoted.

They came agonisingly close but ran out of steam in the very last of those outings — the 1-0 play-off final second-leg defeat at Hamilton.

Success was expected from the Dumbarton visits. Had it been forthcoming, United would’ve secured second place and two fewer play-off games. That might have been the difference between success and failure.

United have struggled against Dumbarton in recent times.

And there is no question the Sons have become a bogey team over the past two campaigns.

As well as those shock home wins, Steve Aitken’s part-timers secured a Tannadice draw and, when they visited again earlier in this term, took another, thoroughly-deserved point that could easily have been three.

That means United know to expect a tough time this Saturday and must also be aware the opposition will show the kind of battling qualities that were such a big factor in Livingston’s recent win over them.

With in-form leaders St Mirren at home to Morton, there’s every chance three points will be required just to maintain the five-point gap to the top of the table. If that deficit was to widen to eight points it would be a major worry, particularly as next up at Tannadice on Saturday week are the Buddies.

To go into that one knowing another defeat would leave United trailing them by 11 points would represent massive pressure on a squad that is so obviously low on confidence right now.

One thing in the Tangerines’ favour is the fact none of that will need to be pointed out to Laurie Ellis, the man who right now is responsible for getting the players ready for the weekend.

Having been brought to the club by McKinnon as his No 2, this is a difficult time for Ellis and he must have concerns about his own future.

Whether or not he wants to stay on beyond his close friend’s time in charge is not clear.

Even if he does, he’ll know that decision could be taken out of his hands by the arrival of a new manager who wants his own backroom staff.

It can be taken as read he will not let any of that uncertainty affect the way he carries out his duties.

In both terms of ability and work ethic, he has the respect of the dressing-room and, if he’s the man in charge for these possibly season-defining games, the team will be properly prepared.