There will be a handshake and maybe even a warm embrace but when the whistle goes at Tannadice today Calum Butcher knows his battle with old mate Paul Paton is likely to be as tough as any he faces in the Championship.
The pair were team-mates at United under Jackie McNamara and shared some good times together, but with Paton’s Falkirk desperately in need of points in their battle to avoid relegation from the Championship, once the action starts there will be no room for sentiment.
And if the Bairns’ need for a win is even greater than the Tangerines’, with the promotion play-offs looming, Butcher insists the home players will be battling just as hard as their visitors.
“We’ve obviously played against each other already this season and they are fighting against relegation down the bottom end of the league. I think it’s safe to say he will be up for the game,” said Butcher.
“I speak to him every now and then, we’re in touch through social media and stuff like that. With every player you got along with you always look out to see how they are doing and hope things are going well for them.
“But Pates is wholehearted and leaves everything out there on the pitch which is what I like to do as well so it will be a good game.
“There might be a few tackles between us. Pates doesn’t hold back and neither do I, so we won’t be taking it easy just because we used to play here together but it will be good to see him.”
And for Butcher, the very fact there is so much at stake for the opposition, makes this the perfect game for United as they look to keep their form going in the run up to next month’s season-defining action.
“I think games at the end of the season when you have nothing to play for can end up like a pre-season game or a friendly, so I think it is good something matters in this one.
“It’s important for us to have one like this with Falkirk coming up for it because it is good preparation for the play-off games and it keeps you going about things the right way.
“It is important we keep going right up to the play-offs and we know this is going to be a real game because of their situation.”
Although there is almost a month to go before United face either Inverness or Ayr at the semi-final stage of those play-offs, Butcher admits they are already on the players’ minds.
His thoughts are that, after two wins over that pair, it’s important the good work is maintained. If it is, Robbie Neilson’s team will go into the two-leg affairs in a very good place both physically and mentally.
“I think we are peaking at the right time performance-wise. It was always going to take time with all the new boys coming in during January and getting up to speed without having a pre-season and such, it was going to be difficult,” he added.
“Now we are and a lot of boys not having played a lot before they came here is good for us going into the play-offs.
“There is a freshness about the boys and performance wise we are getting to where we want to be.”