PETER Houston spoke of a lack of progress regarding his future as Dundee United manager last week and such uncertainty seem personified by his side on Saturday.

Talks have yet to begin on a new deal for the coach but he was not short of things to say about his side after they stumbled to a heavy defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

A midweek Scottish Communities League Cup win over Queen of the South interrupted what has been an unsavoury run of results in the league, United having now not won in five outings. That is long enough for the feelgood factor of a win over city rivals Dundee to have petered out.

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Houston certainly wasn't smiling on Saturday. The confidence of his side is low given their run of form but so is the manager's patience.

The lack of progress being made on his future was forced to the sidelines as his side toiled against an Inverness side that seemed to smell blood in the water. Four-goals down and still with 20 minutes to endure, Houston refused to protect his players for their inert performance.

"Confidence isn't great – and that's easy for me to say," said the Tannadice manager. "There are ways and means of dealing with it. When you do lose confidence, it doesn't mean to say you stop closing down people and winning second balls and tackles. I didn't feel we won any of those.

"We stopped playing the way we had been. It is a huge disappointment for United fans and we apologise to them. It was an embarrassing performance in the end."

If those words were intended to ensure he was given time by fans then he may be disappointed. United's lack of creativity allowed stand-in goalkeeper Antonio Reguero a relatively peaceful league debut, while there was little cohesion in how they defended. Inverness made the most of it.

Philip Roberts illuminated the match and proved he is settling well after swopping London's bright lights and plush Barclays Premier League environs for the Scottish Highlands. Life on Moray Firth shores might seem a far cry from pampered experiences within Arsenal's lavish funded youth complex yet the precocious teenager will feel like he is actually emerging from obscurity in Inverness' first team.

A spectacular goal and a clever assist punctuated Roberts' performance in his side's demolition of United, the attacking blend of his youthful verve and Richie Foran's more grizzled guile proving potent. Inverness were the opposite of their visitors; ruthless and greatly-improved all over the park with defensive solidity and aggressive midfield control bringing a first clean sheet of the season.

For the young Londoner, who will remain at Inverness until January, the move has been a whirlwind experience. "I was kind of shocked this week when I saw I was on Fifa 2013. That hit home," Roberts said. "It gave me a bit of a buzz but, no, I haven't managed to get myself scoring a goal on the computer like today.

"It was a good game – hard and fast, really hard work. I almost got cramp at the end but I just had to put in as big a shift as I could. Training here has been really high intensity so I guessed that a match would be even more demanding. My own confidence is good and, for me, it is all about experiencing real football, men's football, rather than youth football.

"Arsenal is a fantastic set-up but the younger teams are all about development. Here I can toughen up and grow physically and I can learn what it really takes to win matches and be part of a dressing room. This was my first game in men's football [and] is a dream debut."