When it’s put to him ‘seeing it was Irn-Bru Cup weekend so no-one should be surprised he turned in a Man-of-the-Match performance at Partick Thistle’, Paul McMullan manages a wry smile.
Particularly under previous boss Csaba Laszlo, it was often only in that competition – the least important to Dundee United – the attacker got the chance to show what he could do over the whole 90 minutes.
And while, more often than not, he responded by being the best player on the park, it became increasingly obvious it was not going to provide a route back to a regular starting slot in the all-important Championship campaign.
Accordingly, it goes without saying he was delighted that United’s impressive win over the Jags was in a re-arranged league outing and not the fizzy cup.
And for him to be involved so prominently in new boss Robbie Neilson’s first outing in charge was a significant bonus.
“It’s better to be doing well in a league game than the Irn-Bru Cup and I thought all the boys were brilliant against Thistle,” said the former Scotland U/21 man.
“It’s a boost as well to be in the team for the manager’s first game. I’m really thankful to him for giving me it and, hopefully, I took it and did well.
“Now we want to follow it up with another good performance against Inverness this week.”
McMullan’s sparkling display saw him at the centre of much of United’s attacking display. He also grabbed an assist for the winning goal when Jags keeper Cammy Bell couldn’t hold his shot, allowing Pavol Safranko to net the rebound, making a mockery of last month’s revelation that United were willing to let him go in the summer.
At the time he stated his plan was to get his head down and work hard to get back in the side before re-assessing his position during the January transfer window, when he’d be into the last six months of his contract.
On that score, nothing has changed but, having been given his chance by the new boss, his hope is regular involvement from now on will see the matter resolved by a new deal at United.
And he knows the best way to earn that is via regular performances like his last.
“I’ve always had the belief in my ability and what I have to do is keep trying to play well.
“On Saturday the manager gave me a more central role and it was good fun. You get a wee bit more of the ball and, when you do get on it, you can go both ways and I enjoyed that.”
Even after just a few days working with Neilson, the 22-year-old is firm in his belief, what’s about to unfold at Tannadice is something every player there will want to be part of.
“I think Saturday was a sign of things to come and we’re only going to get better from now on.
“All the boys are champing at the bit to be involved and that’s definitely what you want because we’ve got a lot of good players here.
“Right from the start on Saturday I thought we looked really good, we were creating chances. One thing where we were maybe lacking was converting them and it’s something we can work on.
“But we did create a few, maybe should have had another couple of goals and we had one that was just offside as well and it’s good we’re making them.
“We had to battle for the last 10 minutes or so and you do get a bit nervy when they pull a goal back and because it’s late on you go a bit more defensive.
“Probably the fact we’d been so much on top makes you more anxious because you don’t want to throw away two points but we stuck together and saw the game out.”