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Dundee United: 4 talking points as ‘pest’ Marc McNulty shines and Manchester United kid Dylan Levitt enjoys dream debut

Wild celebrations
Wild celebrations

Dundee United fans have waited a long time for an outing like this.

A proper away-day.

No Covid-enforced attendance restrictions; just 3,000 supporters belting out ‘Beautiful Sunday’ following a hard-fought 1-0 triumph against Tayside foes St Johnstone.

Thomas Courts has now guided United to seven wins (albeit it required penalties to see off Ayr United in the Premier Sports Cup) from his first eight games, including one against the champions of Scotland.

And there was plenty to digest following this latest victory.

Magic McNulty

This was the real Marc McNulty.

The Marc McNulty whose form for Hibernian earned him Scotland recognition.

The Marc McNulty who burst onto the scene at Livingston before plundering goals south of the border.

The United loan star looked lean, hungry, determined and was, let’s be frank, just a right pest.

In the mood: McNulty

He closed down defenders, won headers, made niggling fouls and gave the St Johnstone back-three a tougher 90 minutes than Ryan Babel — a strange sentence on every conceivable level.

The only goal of the game came as a result of McNulty challenging Jason Kerr for a high ball that he was never going to win cleanly.

Yet, his presence ensured the clearance dropped dangerously in the box for Nicky Clark to find Peter Pawlett, who poked into the net.

A determined, motivated McNulty — which he will be, given this is the final year of his Reading deal — played in his favoured position up front is a mouth-watering prospect for United fans and a fitting replacement for Lawrence Shankland.

Deep-lying Dylan

Dylan Levitt was handed an immediate debut following his loan arrival from Manchester United and looked the part; cool in possession, positionally adept and spreading passes for fun.

Impressive: Levitt

BBC Scotland even awarded him their man of the match and, while McNulty should have something to say about that, it underlines the impact he made.

No midfielder on the pitch made more passes than Levitt’s 55 on Sunday and he received the ball from Liam Smith in order to instigate attacks 13 times — comfortably the most common passing combination of any pair on the pitch (Opta).

Levitt’s instant rapport with Jeando Fuchs was also very heartening.

The duo dovetailed beautifully as the midfield pivots in a 4-2-3-1, with Fuchs doing the dirty work and covering the kilometres manfully, snapping into tackles and recycling possession.

Levitt’s (No.19) average position at the base of midfield, linking with Liam Smith (No.2)

That allowed Levitt — subject of much debate regarding where he would be deployed in the midfield — to dictate play from deep.

United are in safe hands

The news of Benjamin Siegrist’s absence sparked all sorts of online speculation, most dramatic of which being that the Swiss stopper had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament — an injury which would likely end his season.

Courts said it was ‘too early’ to draw such conclusions as he awaits the results of a scan.

In the meantime, United had a match to win.

Clean sheet: Carson

And Trevor Carson proved himself to be a safe pair of hands between the sticks, with the Northern Ireland internationalist claiming a clean sheet on his debut.

The experienced stopper will have busier days — St Johnstone mustered just two shots on target — but his low save from Glenn Middleton in the dying embers was sharp and ensured three points did not become one.

No substitute

It is rare to see a Premiership side navigate a full 90 minutes without making a single substitution.

Yet, that is exactly what United did on Sunday.

Victory: Courts

That served to underline the dearth of senior options available to Courts and, consequentially, how impressive the performance at McDiarmid Park was.

The Tangerines were without Benji Siegrist, Mark Connolly, Calum Butcher, Declan Glass, Ian Harkes, Louis Appere and Logan Chalmers — a substantial pool of talent.

And while young prospects such as Flo Hoti, Chris Mochrie and Flynn Duffy are gifted youngsters, it is unsurprising that Courts chose not to throw them into a ferocious finale to this fixture as ten-man United sought to hold on to a slender advantage.