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4 Dundee United talking points: The gambler, bittersweet brilliance of Dylan Levitt, the Tannadice factor and fearless Rory MacLeod

Dylan Levitt celebrates the goal that sent United into Europe
Dylan Levitt celebrates the goal that sent United into Europe

Dundee United will play in Europe for the first time since 2012 after claiming a precious point against Celtic.

Dylan Levitt’s magnificent strike from distance cancelled out Giorgos Giakoumakis’ header and, while the Hoops toasted the title, the Tangerines had ample cause for celebration themselves.

And Courier Sport was at Tannadice to analyse the action.

Tam’s a gambling man

Tam Courts’ team selection on Wednesday evening was gutsy.

In resting Tony Watt, Charlie Mulgrew and Ross Graham, the United boss left himself open to vociferous criticism.

Should the Tangerines have lost to Celtic — especially if it were a heavy defeat — their European fate would be hanging in the balance heading to Ross County on Saturday.

However, Courts rolled the dice.

He gambled that his changed United side would be good enough to get something against the Hoops, while hoping that both Ross County and Motherwell would not win (only the latter did, against Hearts).

Bound for Europe: Courts

There was also a clear undertone of: if it goes to the last day, we need to be ready.

And, in terms of the race for fourth, it will.

Motherwell lead United by one point. The Steelmen visit Celtic on Saturday, while United travel to County.

And should Courts’ midweek selection afford Watt, Mulgrew and Graham a little extra pep in their step and make the difference in Dingwall, it can be considered a masterstroke.

The 2021/22 season at Tannadice: In numbers

A stirring, breathless second-half display from United was a fitting way to bring the curtain down on another season of football at Tannadice.

It hasn’t always been silky soccer — a fact acknowledged by Courts — but the Tangerines’ home form has been pivotal to their success this term and supporters can reflect on some memorable moments.

Taking four points off Rangers, including a 1-0 victory in August; defeating Dundee 1-0 courtesy of an Ian Harkes firecracker; Dylan Levitt’s goal of the season contenders on home soil against Motherwell, Hearts and Celtic.

United have picked up an average of 1.47 points at home this term, compared to 0.94 on the road. That differential of 0.53 is higher than all-but three Premiership clubs (Hearts, Motherwell, Aberdeen).

Sixty per cent of the club’s league goals have been scored at home.

It would be overstating the case to suggest Tannadice has been a fortress but, as the famous old ground enters hibernation for a couple of months, United’s efforts there have been key.

The bittersweet brilliance of Dylan Levitt

They say never get too attached to a loan player.

That mantra has become impossible to follow for smitten Arabs.

Manchester United youngster Levitt is getting better and better as this campaign reaches its denouement, adding a clinical touch to his well-established eye for a pass and ability to control a game.

With his sumptuous screamer against Celtic, he has now rippled the net six times; five of those coming in his last 12 outings.

Levitt is out of contract at Old Trafford this summer and it remains to see what the future holds for the Wales star.

Courts has made it clear he wants Levitt back next season; to build a team around the precocious playmaker.

All of which makes every moment of Welsh wizardry something of a double-edged sword.

It is inconceivable that Levitt — a full international with a penchant for shining on the big occasion — will not be attracting interest from south of the border. From teams with deeper pockets than United.

The Terrors, however, can offer European football and the opportunity to be the heartbeat of a football club at a young age.

How big a draw could that prove to be?

Rory MacLeod grasped his big chance

Any United fan with even a passing interest in the club’s endeavours at under-18 level will have seen the name Rory MacLeod with regularity in 2022.

The 16-year-old has been a goal machine in the CAS Under-18s Elite League in recent weeks and richly merited his first-ever start for the senior side.

It was another landmark for MacLeod, who became United’s youngest ever player when he entered the fray as a substitute against Motherwell in February.

Excellent: MacLeod.

And the tireless forward was not cowed by the challenge posed by the new champions of Scotland in the slightest.

Charged with dropping deep and making life difficult for Callum McGregor, he snapped into challenges, was tidy on the ball and, when the chance arose, never afraid to get a shot away.

MacLeod rattled the base of the post in the second half; inches away from an unforgettable moment.

Nevertheless, he can be immensely proud of his showing and will now link up with United teammates Lewis O’Donnell and Craig Moore to represent Scotland at the U17 European Championships in Turkey.

It will be another formative experience for a teenager bursting with promise.

Tam Courts issues final rallying cry as Dundee United boss hails European qualification: ‘This means everything’

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