The heat is on Dundee United as title slips away

Time is almost up for Dundee United’s title bid but boss Robbie Neilson’s position looks secure.
Time is almost up for Dundee United’s title bid but boss Robbie Neilson’s position looks secure.

Dundee United need to beat Ayr United on Friday night to be sure of extending the race for automatic promotion in the Championship for at least another week.

Leaders Ross County won their game in hand when they beat Dunfermline in Dingwall last night to extend the gap at the top to eight points.

With just four games to go it means if the Tangerines don’t take three points against the Honest Men at Tannadice, the Staggies would be able to wrap up the title by beating lowly Partick Thistle when they head north on Saturday.

Even if United do chalk up a first success of the campaign against Ayr, realistically it is only a matter of time before it’s confirmed they’ll be heading for the promotion play-offs next month.

Whatever happens, sporting director Tony Asghar has given boss Robbie Neilson his backing.

The man who’s been responsible for running the club since American millionaire Mark Ogren bought it just before Christmas, sees Robbie as the man to lead the first team in the long term.

Dundee United sporting director Tony Asghar, manager Robbie Neilson, owner Mark Ogren and managing director Malachy Brannigan.

“He is absolutely part of the long-term plan,” was how the former agent summed up the manager’s position.

“The relationship between us is fantastic and is getting stronger and stronger.

“The key thing is trust. He trusts my judgement in terms of supporting him.

“I trust his judgement in regards to how he fulfils his role as head coach.

“I think he is one of the best young managers in this country.”

Even before the arrival of the new owner and Asghar, when he took on the United job back in October, Robbie himself said he saw the benefits of a director of football being appointed and working closely with him.

It was something he was used to when he worked under Craig Levein as head coach of Hearts.

While the manager’s position is secure, the new regime at Tannadice has not been slow to make changes.

The past few months have seen assistant boss Laurie Ellis, reserve manager Craig Easton and U/18 coach Scott Robertson replaced.

Among those coming in have included Gordon Forrest, Lee McCulloch, David Byrne and Adam Asghar.