THE transformation of Celtic from a side that was serially inconsistent and regularly disappointing to one that is favourite to win a domestic treble may have several contributing factors but there is one constant.

Or should that be inconstant? It is, in brief, Neil Lennon's ability to shuffle his side and his players' capacity to change tactically on the field.

Much has been made of the strength of Lennon's squad and this was again displayed at Tannadice on Sunday when Paddy McCourt, Kris Commons and, curiously, Lukasz Zaluska were brought on in the 4-0 defeat of Dundee United. The introduction of the Polish goalkeeper, possibly as a reward for a recently-signed contract, also served to reinforce the impression that Lennon has a solid, preferred spine of the team. Forster, Thomas Rogne and Gary Hooper are the favourites in goal, in central attack and at centre-forward. The rest is constant change.

The Celtic manager has been depicted as a fevered presence on the touchline but there is method in his perceived madness. Celtic adapt quickly to the demands of a game. Lennon realised after 10 minutes on Sunday that United, in particular Johnny Russell, were playing on Joe Ledley at left full-back. Changes were made. Charlie Mulgrew was moved to left-back and Victor Wanyama pulled into central defence, allowing Ledley to play in his preferred central midfield role.

Celtic's prospects were undoubtedly enhanced by the dismissal of Robbie Neilson for a reckless lunge with his elbow on Georgios Samaras but it was no accident that Ledley opened the scoring. His turn, pass and run in that crucial move were all part of the Celtic playbook. He also showed how the versatility of his side pays dividends for Lennon. Mulgrew, Ledley and Wanyama were the principal players in Sunday's switch and can be relied upon to move comfortably into another position.

All have claims to be Scotland's player of the season. Mulgrew, who started the term in the shadow of Emilio Izaguirre at left-back and was regarded as an emergency centre back, has answered any question asked of him since the dark days of October. He is now an international full-back, a solid central defender with the ability to play the ball forward with accuracy and composure and a candidate for the wide-left role in midfield.

Ledley has been employed with success at left-back, as well as a central and left midfielder. Wanyama, strong and increasingly assured, is better in midfield but more than decent in central defence. His ability to outmuscle attackers in tackles is matched by his readiness to cover for his team mates. He is an outstanding talent.

However, others in the team also can be moved with confidence. Scott Brown, now displaying excellent form in central midfield, can play wide right. Samaras can play as a second striker or on the left. James Forrest has moved across the line, playing on both flanks and on occasion behind the main striker. The 20-year-old has shown great maturity in this role, both in his ability to pick a pass and in scoring from a central position.

He may be not quite the player at present that he was during his pomp in the past three months but he must be feeling the effects of a draining campaign. The winger has played 41 times for Celtic and on four occasions for his nation at both under-21 and senior level this season. His rest will surely come in league matches as Celtic stroll to the title but Forrest's pace and his ability to be devastatingly direct are integral, irreplaceable parts of the best performances from Lennon's side. He will be given a breather but not on Sunday as Celtic seek the first trophy in a possible treble when they take on Kilmarnock at Hampden in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup.

Forrest's switching of wings has also shown that Anthony Stokes has the facility to move out wide, too. The striker's most publicised moment on Sunday was when he hit the bar with the goal gaping but he also scored decisively when released by Ledley in the box.

He was also heavily involved in the goal that tilted a difficult match in Celtic's favour. Positioned on the left, Stokes outwitted Sean Dillon and drove in a cross that was finished by Ledley. This was Stokes reacting to Lennon's demands for better movement from his front two but the Irishman has also been employed, particularly in European games, as a forward who comes off the left wing.

Those in reserve have also shown versatility. McCourt can play on either wing or off a central striker, Ki Sung-Yueng can operate along a midfield four and Cha Du-Ri is an option for both full-back positions and on the right of midfield. Lennon has thus constructed a team that has potential in terms of both age and in fluidity.

From the prospect of desperate under-achievement in October, the manager can now survey a bright horizon in March. Things have changed and much of that is down to his and his players' ability to do the same.