DUNDEE United ended up with nothing to show for their efforts during 1986-87 but - a bit like Celtic fans who still get misty eyed about their Seville season - somehow that isn’t really the point. It will be 30 years tomorrow since Dundee United failed to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to IFK Gothenburg in the Uefa Cup final at Tannadice but at least Jim McInally was proud enough to retain his runners’ up medal.

“I used to throw my losers’ medals away all over Hampden, it used to make Jim McLean mad,” the Peterhead manager told Herald Sport, speaking to publicise a new film on the subject by purpleTV called Tannadice 87. “One day we were back in training after a cup final and he said ‘whose f***ing medal is this? ... I don’t need to ask do I? It’s yours, you wee b******.’ But that Uefa Cup medal was always special to me, because even though it is a losers medal - in fact it was exactly the same medal that I got when Scotland won the European Youth Championships in 1982 - it was a Uefa Cup losers medal, you know.”

United might have shocked Europe by beating Barcelona and Borussia Moenchengladbach to get this far but not only were the Swedes in mid-season, they had beaten Aberdeen en route to the European Cup semi-finals a season previously and taken care of Inter Milan in the quarter finals to get there. Conditions in the first match, in the Ullevaal stadium, weren’t exactly favourable and there was the small matter of a gruelling Scottish Cup final defeat against St Mirren to be sandwiched in. “The game over there was a farce, it was the worst football pitch I have ever seen in my life, a shocker,” said McInally. “Bruce Springsteen had played a concert on it the week before and the crowd had been standing on the pitch so it was absolutely appalling.

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“Gothenburg were really fresh, their season had just started,” he added. “While we were on our backsides if you know what I mean. I have a laugh at Jose Mourinho going on about not getting any help from the FA because our last two weeks were Saturday, Monday, Wednesday if I remember rightly. And what was of paramount importance was that we had the Scottish Cup final against St Mirren in between. On a level situation I think we would have been better than them.”

Thirty years on from one of the biggest matches in their history, United face another giant occasion in the life of the football club tonight. Ray McKinnon’s side stand 2-2 with Falkirk after their Premiership play-off semi-final first leg tie. McInally feels the tie is perfectly balanced but - with either Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Hamilton waiting in the two-legged play-off final - he would give the winner a fair chance of returning to the top flight.

“For a start, Ray went in at a terrible time really after the shambles of last season,” said McInally. “He has had to pick up a lot of pieces and he has done as well as he could. At one point, I think it was Christmas time, they were top of the league but it all went pear shaped for them. But it was a terrific tie the other night and it is still anyone’s tie. And I am of the opinion that either of these two teams could beat Inverness or Hamilton over two games. Whoever it is that they play, both Falkirk or United will have the bulk of the support in those two games. Even in these poor times with all the problems they’ve got with Stephen Thompson, and boycotts and the like, the fans are still there for United so for them more than anything else I hope they get through.”

McInally, of course, has his own play-off drama to contend with, as Peterhead bid to retain their League 1 status against Forfar. Their 2-1 first leg defeat was only part of the story, with referee Stephen Finnie dismissing Michael McMullin for a second booking for simulation even though he appeared to be tripped for a penalty “It should have been a stonewall penalty,” said McInally. “Then not only do we got one sent off, within five minutes we lost three players to injury, it is unbelievable. So the boys showed a lot of courage to restrict it to just one. Thankfully I was able to save a few - Simon Ferry and Nicky Riley, who astroturf doesn’t really agree with - so I have some fresh players to bring back.”

While many of United’s Gothenburg greats still live near Dundee, McInally enjoyed seeing the likes of Kevin Gallacher and Paul Sturrock, who live further afield, for the film’s premiere. He didn’t always see eye to eye with McLean, who is now in ill health, but the two men buried any differences a while back. “I had real bust ups with him when he was chairman ... but at the end of the day I never really had a grievance because in my eyes I was a bang average footballer who had a better career than I should have because of him.”