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Tale of two cities to be continued at last as in-form sides battle for second place

FORGET the recent blips experienced by Dundee United and Aberdeen; there is still as much excitement surrounding this game as there was when Jim McLean and Alex Ferguson were steering the respective sides to success three decades and more ago.

Gavin Gunning, third right, comes close with a late header the last time his Dundee United side took on Aberdeen
Gavin Gunning, third right, comes close with a late header the last time his Dundee United side took on Aberdeen

Around 3000 visiting supporters will venture to the City of Discovery today hoping that their team, better than it has been for years, will inflict further damage on a feted United outfit whose recent aberrations - two successive defeats and the loss of seven goals - have raised eyebrows but not lessened interest in a derby that is expected to be a sell-out.

"I hope it could be a special year for us," said Niall McGinn, Aberdeen's on-form striker. "We have all the attributes and we have improved on last season although we know we can't get carried away. We have to take it one game at the time but since the summer I have been excited about this season. As for the game against Dundee United, it is definitely one all the players are looking forward to. There is going to be a massive crowd and our own allocation has been massive. It should be loud and a great atmosphere but we, as players, have to put that out of our minds go there and try to get the three points."

McGinn, with nine goals to his credit this term, is likely to be in close contact with United's defenders, who will be ordered to stymie his flair and eye for an opportunity. He is wary, though, of the threat caused by the opposition's attackers. "Of all the teams we've played at Pittodrie I think they have been one of the best," he insisted.

"These are the sort of games you look at over the course of the season and even if we don't play well if we pick up three points that will be all that matters."

McGinn has blossomed at Pittodrie since being signed by the then manager, Craig Brown, 18 months ago. "I feel great," the Northern Irishman said. "I am playing well every week and I am enjoying my football. I am chipping in with goals here and there from a wider position and I am enjoying it because I am still amongst the goals. The good thing is that I am playing in a winning team."

John Souttar, the United defender, was also playing in a winning team up until two matches ago. Things have slipped a little, though, most notably in their 3-0 shock defeat by St Johnstone on Sunday. But the teenager warned that his young side have yet to hit top form. "The last two games have been disappointing," he said. "But I just want to move on and get back to Tannadice where we have played a lot of good stuff this year. The gaffer believes in all of his players and I can tell you we have got a lot more to come. I don't think we have been properly at our best in any game this season yet . . . I mean top form. We played well against Motherwell when we beat them 4-0 but I think we can do even better."

The defender was the subject of a £600,000 bid by Sunderland earlier this season while Everton and QPR were also interested, but the 17-year-old dismissed the notion that all the fuss might distract him. "It's been easy to blank out all the stuff that has been said and written about me," he said. "I don't notice any of that, I just concentrate on making sure I'm doing my job on the park. It's easier too because it's not just me who has had this stuff said or written. There are a few of us in the same position. It gets laughed off."

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