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Serious results are fun and games for United

THEY are Scottish football's Young Team.

Gary Mackay-Steven regards this United side as the most exciting he has played for. Picture: SNS
Gary Mackay-Steven regards this United side as the most exciting he has played for. Picture: SNS

This Dundee United side have given out so many kickings this season, that it is perhaps best just to stay out of their way. Turning on to Tannadice Street on a Saturday now is advisable only if you happen to have a big cousin.

The likes of Ryan Gauld, Andrew Robertson, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven have all shone brightly in the SPFL Premiership but they can look menacing when in their sports gear. If there is a softer side to them then it is also hidden behind the 21 goals United have scored in their last five matches - the Tannadice side muscling in on third place in the league table. When Ross County walk on to their turf today, their league match might be better described as a square go.

County have been playing the part of the victim already this season, with the Dingwall side in the league's relegation play-off spot and without a win in the top-flight since October 5. It can seem tempting to suggest that the closest County have got to United this season is taking Garry Kenneth on trial, with the club intending to add to their squad next month.

The prospect of calling in reinforcements might feel pertinent given they face a side today which is able to mount a charge on second place, with Inverness Caledonian Thistle not in action until later in the evening. "I really feel we are good enough to get second," said Mackay-Steven. "We have been winning lately and are in the habit of scoring a few goals. It is a good time for us just now.

"It really is just like being at school and having a kick-about with your mates in the playground. That is really what it is like because we work hard, of course, but we also have a great laugh. The team that the manager has put together is one of the most exciting I have been involved with."

It is not just the winger who thinks so either. The form shown by United's young players has drawn the focus of those involved in Scottish football but also scouts from outside; Gauld the subject of attention from individuals reportedly acting on behalf of clubs from Spain, Italy and England. Robertson has also since been linked with a move to Everton.

"Every one on the boys who have been doing so well could handle it," said Mackay-Steven, who signed for Liverpool early in his career before returning north. "Nothing will faze these guys. I include Andy in that."

Derek Adams did his best to act with nonchalance too when informed of United's recent form. The County manager had absorbed the statistics already but yesterday put a different slant on them, suggesting that the abandon with which United's full-backs attack tends to surrender space on the wings.

It is through such gaps that Adams intends to smuggle three points this afternoon. "They are very strong going forward and their young lads have impressed," said the County manager, who is without Steven Saunders and Marc Klok. "We'll go down looking to cause them problems because we know they do take chances. We know the right-back and left-back get forward and leave gaps. We'll have to be sound defensively and take our chances when they come along in the game."

The reference to a stiffer defence is not simply born from cliche, since the Highland side have not been as resolute as they were last term. It is also a point of personal pride for Scott Boyd, then, with the County defender irked by the drop in form suffered by a side which he has served for five years.

"It has been frustrating, especially since a lot of our previous seasons here have been built upon the basis of being very solid and hard to beat," said Boyd. "It is something we are working very hard on every day, as a team, to change. I'm sure one result can change things for us."

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