AND so, Celtic’s title defence ends in fitting fashion; with a whimper. Their goalless draw with Dundee United has confirmed Rangers as champions, after 90 minutes which was symptomatic of their wretched season.

It wasn’t that they played all that badly. They had enough opportunities to win the match handsomely. But they were incredibly and frustratingly wasteful in attack, with 27 efforts to no reward. And as has been typical of late, they faded badly in the latter stages. Ultimately, just as in their quest for a tenth successive title, they fell way short.

The stalemate was ultimately a result that suited neither side, with United’s top-six hopes now over too, but they are comfortably safe in the table, which would have been their main aim going into the campaign.

Celtic, alas, have fallen so far short of their pre-season target it is barely fathomable. Perhaps the one comfort for their supporters is that the rest of the country will be suffering along with them in the next fortnight, as we face the mind-numbing debate over whether they now give Rangers a guard of honour when they visit Celtic Park in their next fixture.

That, for now, is a small concern for Celtic though. This side needs a major rebuild in personnel and a major renewal in terms of belief and mentality to give them a fighting chance next season. With the albatross of 10 in-a-row now forcibly removed from their necks, that process must start now.

As for the match, United manager Micky Mellon brought Nicky Clark back into the line-up, and with two other strikers shoehorned into his set-up in Marc McNulty and Lawrence Shankland, the indications were he would be making good on his pre-match promise to have a go.

There was still no real sign of a major change in approach from John Kennedy, but Moi Elyounoussi was restored to the line-up in place of Patryk Klimala after the striker’s surprise inclusion for last weekend’s win over Aberdeen.

James Forrest was back on the bench, and how he has been missed by Celtic this season. Though as he isn’t all that much cop at defending set-pieces, whether his injury made a material difference to the destination of the title is debatable.

It was a positive start by the visitors with efforts from Jonjoe Kenny and Diego Laxalt going close, but the whirr of a small plane overhead provided the most excitement in the early stages as necks craned to see the inevitable gloating message that was being delivered by Rangers fans.

Celtic fans are probably worried right now about their Rangers-supporting friends droning on about their title success this term, and the drone of an aircraft trailing a banner over Tannadice reading ‘Can you see us now? 55 titles’ may be an ominous portent of what is about to come their way.

Back on Terra Firma, Celtic continued to dominate possession and territory, and continued to pepper Benjamin Siegrist’s goal. At least now there were one or two signs though of some counter-fire from United, and McNulty would have been disappointed after dragging an effort well wide from a decent position.

At the other end, Laxalt should have put Celtic ahead after a lovely touch by Odsonne Edouard and a lay-off by Elyounoussi gave him a clear sight of goal. The full-back opted to put his laces through the ball though, and what he gained in power he lost in accuracy, succeeding only in firing into the side-netting.

David Turnbull managed to find force and direction in his next effort, bringing a fine diving save from Siegrist low to his right, as the United keeper marked his 100th appearance for the club in impressive fashion.

The second half started as the first ended with Celtic on top, and Stephen Welsh planted a header straight at Siegrist from close range from a cracking Turnbull delivery, before Elyounoussi did the same with a shot from 12 yards.

They were piling on the pressure now, with Callum McGregor flashing a dangerous ball across goal, and it seemed a matter of time before Siegrist’s goal was finally breached. Though, that would require the Celtic players to find an edge to their finishing, which to this point had been woefully blunt.

Turnbull was withdrawn on the hour for Tom Rogic, and his reaction was probably mirrored in living rooms up and down the country as he showed his frustration at the decision from Kennedy.

It was United who were next to waste a decent if rare opening, as substitute Peter Pawlett sent McNulty scarpering away on the break. His curled effort from the edge of the box was too close to Scott Bain though, who rather made a mess of the save nonetheless, ending up bursting his nose as he diverted the ball wide with his face.

Quite how Elyounoussi managed to miss a header from point-blank range after a fine Christie delivery only he could tell you, and the same player then fired inches wide with a shot across goal.

With a little over 10 minutes left, Forrest made his first appearance since late September, but it was another substitute Leigh Griffiths who went close in injury-time with a header. Yet again though, it was straight at Siegrist.

And with that, the inevitable was confirmed. At least Celtic will now be spared the indignity of Rangers clinching the title on their own patch. A small mercy in a largely embarrassing defence of their crown.