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Jack Ross management masterclass under the microscope following Dundee United triumph

Jack Ross salutes the fans
Jack Ross salutes the fans

Jack Ross has done a few interviews with The Coaches Voice.

It is a source that allows managers to outline, in their own words, the philosophies, methods and goals that drive them.

Unhurried and contemplative, it’s a format that evidently appeals to Ross — a studious character who obsesses about this sport, and how to motivate and inspire those within it.

One of the regular features on The Coaches Voice is Masterclass, where the subject talks viewers through a particularly memorable victory.

In a strange twist of fate, Ross’ contribution to the series was a 3-0 win over Dundee United while in charge of St Mirren in August 2017.

However, Thursday night’s 1-0 win over AZ Alkmaar — particularly if they finish the job in the Netherlands next week — deserves the same treatment.

It was a masterclass.

From his pre-match comments, to team selection, to the timing of his substitutions, this was an early tour de force in Ross’ tenure as Tangerines head coach.

The rallying cry — publicly and privately

Messaging matters.

Ahead of the visit of AZ Alkmaar, Ross repeatedly eschewed the narrative of the plucky underdog; the Scottish team hoping to give their classy continental visitors a bloody nose.

Instead, he underlined the quality within the United ranks — the likes of Dylan Levitt, Charlie Mulgrew and Steven Fletcher would go on to ably illustrate that — and pointed out that Rangers reached the Europa League final last season.

Back at home, the Tangerines took four points from a possible 12 against the Gers.

Courier Sport understands he was even more vehement on the training pitch and in the dressing room: if we play to our best, then we WILL go to the Netherlands with a positive result, was the mantra. No ifs, buts or maybes.

And it shone through in the hosts’ performance.

Mulgrew’s ice-cool Cruyff turn — salt in the wound for the Dutch visitors — to take out Dani de Wit and Vangelis Pavlidis on the edge of his own box; Levitt bringing out the tricks on the touchline.

That’s before we consider a genuinely wonderful goal by Glenn Middleton.

There was swagger. The players deserve immense credit for that. They are the individuals who require the bottle to carry out the game-plan.

However, Ross set the tone for a magic night from well before a ball was kicked.

The team selection

One change was enforced. Kieran Freeman came in for the injured Scott McMann, with Aziz Behich’s work permit yet to arrive.

The other — Middleton in for Mathew Cudjoe — proved astute.

The Ghanaian winger did nothing wrong against Kilmarnock on Saturday. Indeed, he was bright, lively and on a couple of occasions linked up very smartly with Fletcher.

Magic moment: Middleton curls home

However, he was also bullied by Lewis Mayo a couple of times. His diminutive stature is evidently something he must compensate for.

Against an AZ side with pace and direct runners on the flank, the choice of experience and, when required, defensive diligence, offered by Middleton paid dividends — even before he rippled the net with a sumptuous curling strike.

That was a moment of sublime quality and came after a lovely interchange with Jamie McGrath — which brings us to…

The substitutions

Ross could have started Jamie McGrath.

It would have been bold. He had not shaped up for the majority of the week — only joining officially on Wednesday — but, having completed Wigan’s pre-season and taking a place on the bench against Preston on Saturday, he was fit and ready.

Fired up: Ross

Instead, Ross kept the Irishman on the bench, primed for the right moment. And boy, did he pick it.

McGrath replaced Craig Sibbald — an interesting call in itself, given many predicted he would come on for Ian Harkes (albeit Sibbald was on a booking) — after 59 minutes.

On 61 minutes, United’s new loan star picked up a lovely pocket of space on the edge of the box, collecting the ball from Middleton before teeing up the former Rangers forward to fire home.

Talk about an inspired substitution. The sort of impact managers dream of.

As Ross acknowledged himself, it won’t always go right.

Decisions won’t always be that effective.

But, on an electric night at Tannadice, everything Ross touched turned to gold.

Jack Ross jokes that he should QUIT after dream Dundee United European glory night

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