Ach, it’s a good laugh, isn’t it? Well, unless you happen to be a Dundee United fan at this particular moment.

Memories of those golden days when Craig Levein and Neil Lennon headed up Hearts and Hibs and indulged in their fair share of barnies across the back pages were rekindled yesterday, as it was revealed that the pair were in the shake-up for the vacant managerial post at Tannadice.

To paraphrase Lennon’s famous retort to Levein from back then, it is unlikely that United fans find anything funny about their predicament at the moment. Dare I say it, but seeing United at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership would seem to be out of kilter with the natural order.

The anger of the Arabs after their latest humiliation, the 4-0 thumping at the hands of Ross County on Saturday that cost Liam Fox his job, may not see the humour in their plight, but they may just find a crumb of comfort with the level of name being mentioned to perform the almighty SOS job that is required to avoid relegation.

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The Courier reported last night that Levein had ‘strong support’ from within the Tannadice boardroom to make a sensational return to United, following a previous spell in charge of the club between 2006 and 2009, when he was lured away to take on the Scotland job, no less. Though, the less said about what happened next, probably the better.

A disappointing three-year spell in charge of the national side ended with the sack in 2012 with Scotland bottom of their World Cup qualifying group after four matches, and the infamous night that he opted to go with a 4-6-0 formation in a 1-0 loss to the Czech Republic is likely to be the epitaph to his coaching career.

There has been much more to it than that colossal misstep though, and to reduce his time in the dugout to that one aberration is to do Levein a disservice. As well as turning United around in the mid-noughties, he had early success at Cowdenbeath, and led Hearts to successive third-place finishes during his first spell in charge at Tynecastle. It was the first time they had qualified for European football in back-to-back campaigns since the 1960s.

Granted, a spell at Leicester City didn’t work out, and his return to Tynecastle also ended with the sack. Levein had returned to the club in 2014 as director of football, but stepped back in as manager following the removal of Ian Cathro in 2017.

Still performing a dual role as both manager and director of football as Hearts toiled badly towards the end of 2019, the joke doing the rounds was whether Levein would eventually have to step in and sack himself if their poor form continued.

Ultimately, the decision was taken out of his hands by Ann Budge on Halloween of that year, the then chief executive clearly spooked by seeing Hearts languishing in 11th place in the Premiership, having won just one match to that point all season.

Levein hasn’t been seen in a dugout since. He is currently a full-time advisor to the board of directors at Highland League side Brechin City, combining the role with punditry duties for BBC Scotland.

It is in the latter guise that Levein has revealed a dry sense of humour that came through at times during his second spell at Hearts, but while he may have mellowed of late, it would presumably be his reputation as a disciplinarian that has attracted the interest of the United board.

The undoubtedly talented bunch of players at Tannadice looked a rag-tag lot at Dingwall last weekend, and major questions have been asked by the United support over the commitment of many of them to the cause.

That pool of players has been assembled at some expense by sporting director Tony Ahsgar, though his failure to sign even a semi-competent goalkeeper looks like being quite the costly error. If he is to make another misstep and fail to find the right man to drag them up by their bootstraps, then the United faithful – already baying for his blood – will be angered further still.

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Is going back to the future in such a way really aligned to the long-term strategy set out by Ahsgar and owner Mark Ogren? At this point, such a move might reek of desperation, but their situation is indeed a direly desperate one. An experienced head, many may argue, would seem to be the best bet to turn the current tide of malaise that is sweeping them towards the Championship.

Levein though, may well take some convincing. At 58, and enjoying his current roles somewhat in the background of the Scottish game, would a return to the front line – and very possibly a relegation – be all that appealing?

Lennon too, for his part, has recently opined that nothing much has tickled his fancy by way of vacant positions since he left Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia last October, despite being generally keen on a return to management. This was said at a time when both the Aberdeen and Motherwell posts lay open.

If he doesn’t fancy Pittodrie, would Tannadice tempt him? It’s debatable, at best.

Elsewhere, former United boss Tam Courts has also been linked with a return to the club he left last summer for Budapest Honved, having guided the Terrors to fourth place in last season’s Premiership.

The move to Hungary didn’t work out, with Courts leaving for off-field reasons, but his relative inexperience may go against him given the situation. The fact that a fellow rookie in Fox has just been chased off the premises for his part in landing them there, may make the United support wary of going back to the 41-year-old.

What is beyond argument is that the course of the rudderless ship witnessed in the Highlands on Saturday has to be righted with immediacy, making it imperative that the United board make a decision quickly. Appointments in haste can often lead to clubs repenting at leisure in the Championship, but such is the team’s urgent need for a boot up the proverbial, they have no other choice.

Is Levein the man to rescue United? Either way, it would indeed be a good laugh. Whether that would be the case for United fans, or those in dark blue a little further up Tannadice Street, remains to be seen.