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A long week leaves many gaps to be filled at Dundee United

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As the old saying goes, seven days is a long time in football. Glance at what’s happened to the Dundee United line-up from the last day of the season just over a week ago and you might want to call it an eternity.

Nine days on from the narrow failure to secure a Premiership return at the first time of asking and it’s been confirmed almost half the starting XI have left the club.

Gone are full-backs Sean Dillon and Paul Dixon, while the three most attacking players, Simon Murray, Tony Andreu and Thomas Mikkelsen, have also packed their bags.

And on Monday afternoon midfielder Charlie Telfer joined them in heading for the exit.

Charlie Telfer is the latest Tangerines player to leave the club.
Charlie Telfer is the latest Tangerines player to leave the club.

For Andreu and Mikkelsen it’s been a case of returning to parent clubs from whom they’d been on loan. Of the others, Murray has opted for a return to the Premiership with Hibs, Dillon is seeking pastures new after not being offered a deal, while talks with Dixon ended swiftly, if amicably, when he decided at 30 he was keen on one final challenge.

In the days to come, that list of departures could, conceivably rise by another three, though the more likely number could be just two.

While Willo Flood has not signed a deal, despite interest from Motherwell, he looks likely to remain.

That leaves us awaiting news of Blair Spittal, who has been speaking to other clubs over the past week or so.

Add the departures of keeper Luis Zwick and winger Alex Nicholls, both of whom were on the bench against Accies, and to say Ray McKinnon has a lot of signing to do before next month’s League Cup ties, is more than a statement of the obvious.

Of course, he’s not been sitting back and doing nothing. Even before the season ended he’d fixed up James Keatings from Hibs and Billy King from Hearts and for a while now has been working on a list of targets.

What, though, is likely to be on it? The simple answer is lots — but looking at the situation in more detail it’s easy to say where his priorities lie.

Keatings and King will provide attacking options but it can be taken as read a No 9 is on the list.

In fact, make that two. Keatings can fill the No 10 role Andreu occupied for most of last season and now what’s needed are replacements for Murray and Mikkelsen.

Dropping to midfield, the left-footed King can play on either flank and centrally there will be no lack of options with the likes of Flood, Scott Fraser and Scott Allardice there.

If he’s not in defence, Lewis Toshney can operate in a central role as well. For all he’s a useful right-back, however, Stewart Murdoch is likely to be earmarked for that role and playing Toshney one forward is not an option previously been used.

That means finding a right-sided midfielder is on the list, particular if Spittal’s departure is confirmed.

At the back, despite the wealth of experience that’s departed in the shape of Dillon and Dixon, things don’t look that bad. Murdoch is looking good at right-back and will be challenged for that role by Toshney.

On the other side, Jamie Robson should now be the regular full-back and any signing for that area is likely to be no more than back-up.

Likewise, William Edjenguele and Mark Durnan are now an established partnership in the middle of the defence and Coll Donaldson is likely to remain as cover for them. In goal, Cammy Bell will remain undisputed No 1 and young Brett Long now looks ready to act as his back-up.

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