It is hard to argue with Jamie McGrath’s assessment.

Dundee United did show energy, they did play well, and their attitude – despite a 3-1 defeat to Aberdeen – was spot on.

“It was a very disappointing night,” he said. “I thought from the first minute we showed a good attitude and we were on it from the start. The atmosphere was electric behind us. We really felt that buzz on the pitch.

“The first half we could have been out of sight two or three up if we had got the rub of the green. Of course we can take positives from that but the big thing was our attitude from minute one. 

“I thought we were brilliant and showed a lot of energy. If we keep showing that now and the end of the season then hopefully we can start picking up points.”

While that should offer encouragement in their quest to beat the drop, it also brings a big, fat elephant barging into the room. With 11 games remaining, and two managers already seen off, it begs the question where such attitude and enthusiasm has been of late.

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Liam Fox could certainly have used some of it, so too Jack Ross. McGrath’s emphasis on the level of application could be read as a passive admission that it has not always been so in recent weeks.

That’s not to single out the Irish midfielder, it is more a broader reflection on the squad at Tannadice, and what has transpired across a largely miserable campaign to date. Regardless, confirmation that this group are now up for a survival scrap ticks a box on Jim Goodwin’s to-do list.

Next, is to somehow stop them shipping soft goals. As sublime as Duk’s finish for the opener was, he was only afforded the opportunity by Ryan Edwards’ hesitation. The defender was bested again for the third, while Aberdeen players were allowed to queue up unchallenged near the penalty spot before Ross McCrorie swept home.

“Yeah, it is a big thing,” McGrath admitted. “The gaffer stressed that in our first session that we need to stop leaking goals to give ourselves a chance in games. We can’t be scoring two or three goals to stay in a game. 

“We should have done that tonight and myself I missed chances. It is not a finger pointing, it is a collective - how we press from the top stems to how we lose goals at the back. We have to play together, it is not a time to be finger pointing or analysing.”

There was more than a hint of irony about Aberdeen banishing their away day blues the moment they came face to face with their former manager. Celebrations in the away end felt extra raucous as the goals arrived, perhaps enhanced by the element of surprise – they have not had much to cheer on their travels this season. But they will take heart from watching their team prepared to go to war with an increasingly desperate opponent.

"You have to show that side in this league,” said Graeme Shinnie. “United are fighting for their lives at the bottom and we knew they would get a new manager bounce and we knew it would be that kind of game.

"They were good in the first half and we wanted to try and put pressure on them because of the run they have been on. I think we showed what we are about in the second half. We fought and we scrapped and the quality shone through at the end.”

Replacing Goodwin, interim manager Barry Robson was handed the archetypal ship steadying assignment. The Dons have now won three of their last four, inevitably steering the conversation towards the prospect of his caretaker role becoming a permanent one.

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"It's hard to comment on that,” Shinnie said. “For me personally, it's been enjoyable playing for him. I played with Baz. He's a great guy, he was great to share the dressing room with and he has been top class as a manager.

“Steve [Agnew] coming in has been a different class too. We are moving in the right direction. Whatever happens, happens - but we will continue to fight and scrap for the manager. It's a different style of training and a different week building up to games.

"Obviously, every manager has different ways in what they do and Barry has been full detail and very good. The lads know what he expects from us. He has been very good.”