Dundee boss Paul Hartley says that while his side might be able to put the final nail in United’s coffin in Monday night’s derby, the Tangerines ultimately only have themselves to blame for what has been a “disastrous” season.
If Kilmarnock secure what for them would be a favourable result on Saturday against Hamilton, Mixu Paatelainen’s men will make the short journey up the road to Dens facing the doomsday scenario of knowing defeat at the hands of the Dark Blues would consign them to the drop into the Championship.
If that comes to pass, Hartley admits the loss of the derbies next season would be a big blow not just to the city but to Scottish football as a whole.
However, the manager stressed that was of secondary importance to the immediate main aim for his side – picking up three points.
When asked if anyone could have foreseen what has happened to the Tangerines this season, Hartley said: “I think we would have found it difficult as you see the squad they have.
“Obviously they have changed the manager and a few players as well.
“If you look at it over the years though, they have finished high up in the league and gone to cup finals.
“So, they have had a disastrous season, to be quite honest with you.
“I think the derbies will be a loss to the city as well as the top flight.
“You want to try to make the league as strong as possible and really attractive.
“You want your top teams in and you want to pit your wits against them.
“But, yes, it has to be on merit and if you are good enough to stay in the league then so be it – if you are not and not won enough games, then you go down. Teams only have themselves to blame.”
On Monday night, three sides of Dens will be packed with Dundee fans, eager to see their local rivals relegated and Hartley admitted he and his players know exactly what it means to the support after years of hurt.
He said: “I think we realise that and what can happen.
“But it is not this game that can potentially relegate United, it is the whole season.
“Obviously it is a derby game that might relegate them but all our focus is just on winning the match.
“But our motivation is to do well for our supporters.
“We want to put on a good performance and we want to stay unbeaten in the derbies this season.
“That’s not happened for a long time and we want to be the best team in the city.”
While United are in turmoil at the moment, Dens is an oasis of calm.
That, of course, is in sharp contrast to years gone by with the Dark Blues suffering the pain of two administrations.
However, Hartley insists everyone at the club is determined it will be stable and well run for years to come.
He said: “We are trying to build a team here.
“We were out of the league long enough over the years and we know what it is like – it is not nice.
“We have managed to stay in the top flight the first two seasons we have been back.
“It is good for the club and the fans as we have had enough over the years being really unstable.
“We have had two administrations – the club has been in turmoil.
“We have needed our fans to save the club so I definitely think things are changing.
“We have a good team on the pitch and that has been recognised in the PFA Player of the Year awards.
“So we are trying to build a team here and the club for years to come – be really, really stable, trying to challenge as best we can.”