There is a memorable scene in Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi epic Interstellar. Our protagonist, an astronaut named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is searching for a planet that could host human life after our own little blue dot succumbs to the ravages of climate catastrophe – and discovers one in a far-flung solar system.

A quick jaunt through a wormhole later and our heroes are sitting in orbit above this potential new home for humanity. A trip to the surface for further investigation is required but with one significant catch: due to the immense gravity of a nearby black hole, time passes a lot quicker. Every hour spent there is equivalent to seven years back on Earth; days and weeks pass in what feels like a blink of an eye to McConaughey and his intrepid crew. “That’s relativity, folks,” another astronaut, Brand (Anne Hathaway), dryly explains.

The Northern Lights have been spotted all across Scotland this week but Dundee United fans could be forgiven for staring up at the sky above Tannadice expecting to see a black hole hanging ominously over the famous old ground, given the alacrity with which events have unfolded around Tayside recently.

It was only a week ago that US-based owner Mark Ogren, in town for the club’s AGM and to meet supporters’ groups, was proudly proclaiming Tony Asghar as “his man” amid a backdrop of fans calling for the sporting director’s removal. He publicly threw his support behind manager Liam Fox, insisting that there would be no immediate changes in response to the club’s slide towards relegation. According to those who attended the shareholders’ meeting, the American displayed an alarmingly blasé attitude towards the threat of going down because he surmised United would simply bounce back up at the first time of asking.


Fast-forward a week and Asghar is gone. Fox has been handed his jotters. In an alluring twist of fate, Jim Goodwin will be in the home dugout for this afternoon’s clash with Aberdeen. In the space of seven days that must have felt like weeks to supporters, their chairman has performed the abrupt volte-face that they craved so dearly. We can deduce that the prospect of life in the second tier finally spurred Ogren into action and you don’t have to look far to pinpoint what exactly changed his mind.

Last weekend’s 4-0 defeat at Ross County was utterly abject from the get-go and was one of the most demoralising displays in an already dispiriting campaign – an almost impressive feat, coming in a season that includes 7-0 and 9-0 capitulations. Playing a direct rival to stay up, the performance had all the hallmarks of a group of players that had simply chucked it. They were completely rudderless from start to finish and it was abundantly clear that something had to give, and so Fox was dismissed.

After a brief flirtation with bringing Craig Levein back to Tayside, Ogren decided that Goodwin was the man to save the Arabs from relegation and handed the Irishman the reins until the end of the season. It is a curious appointment, given Goodwin’s disastrous stint at Pittodrie is still fresh in the memory and the 41-year-old doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a firefighter-type coach: something that United desperately require.

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Goodwin will have to give the players a boot up the backside – a fearsome prospect for those who remember the tough-tackling midfielder’s playing days – and it is sorely required. Serious questions need to be asked of the group’s mentality, given they have effectively seen off two managers already this season by downing tools, while their heads tend to drop when the going gets tough.

To say that the Arabs haven’t shown very much resilience this season is putting it lightly. Of the 17 occasions they have fallen behind in a match, they have gone on to lose 16 times and have clawed back a solitary point: the second-worst record of any team in the league. Who is the worst, you ask? Why that would be Aberdeen, who have failed to garner a single point from a losing position in the Premiership this season.

This deficiency is exacerbated by another unhappy trait of this United team: they are painfully slow out of the traps. Alongside Aberdeen, they have conceded more goals than anyone else in the league in the opening 15 minutes of games (eight). And it’s not as if they tend to regroup at the break either, given they have shipped a league-high 11 goals in the opening 15 minutes of the second half.


Dundee United tend to let goals in early and practically never recover from doing so. You don’t have to be a genius to see this is a terminal combination, and it should be a concern that Goodwin’s Aberdeen team shared these same shortcomings. Presumably the hope is that the new head coach will benefit from a new manager bounce in the 12 fixtures he is at the helm but history is not on Goodwin’s side here.

When Goodwin succeeded Jack Ross at Alloa, initially on a player/manager basis, the team had picked up 23 points in their last 12 games; the subsequent dozen would bring in 15 and only three wins. Oran Kearney had picked up 17 points in his final 12 matches as St Mirren escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth and when Goodwin replaced him in the summer, the Buddies picked up eight points out of the first available 36 in the league. A run of 15 points from 12 league outings ultimately cost Stephen Glass his job at Aberdeen this time last year but when Goodwin was parachuted into the Pittodrie hot-seat, he collected 11 points and just two wins from his first 12 league games in charge. Yes, Goodwin enjoyed success at Alloa and St Mirren but it took time and that is a commodity that is in short supply at the moment.

Goodwin will have to buck the trends if United are to have any hope of survival. He will need to instil a sense of resolve in his players that was conspicuous by its absence in his Aberdeen side, and he will have to do so while hitting the ground running like he never has before. Relegation is a very, very real threat and supporters are under no illusions that any stint in the Championship can feel like an eternity; certainly after they have enjoyed top-flight football and European competition in the not-so-distant past. That’s relativity, folks.