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5 Dundee United talking points as dismal Tangerines suffer heaviest EVER European defeat – and equal Scottish record

Dejection: Ross
Dejection: Ross

Dundee United suffered their heaviest ever European defeat – and equalled the Scottish record – as their continental dream was extinguished in humbling fashion against AZ Alkmaar.

Seeking to build upon a stirring 1-0 victory at Tannadice seven days earlier and roared on by 1,300 fans, United arrived in the Netherlands with great expectations.

Instead, they limped to woeful a 7-0 defeat, matching the collapses endured by Celtic against Barcelona (2016) and Hibs at home to Malmo (2013).

United completely capitulated following Vangelis Pavlidis’ first-half opener, with Tijjani Reijnders bagging a brace, Pavlidis helping himself to a second, and Hakon Evjen, Dani de Wit and Mayckel Lahdo all rippling the net.

In truth, it was only AZ’s willingness to take their foot off the gas that halted what could have been a result of genuinely historic proportions. Given de Wit made it 6-0 after 46 minutes, the prospect of double-figures did not seem fanciful.

United were chasing shadows in the Netherlands

It was quite the come-down for the Arabs who thought they might be present for the Terrors’ finest European night in 35 years.

The Dam United

The prelude to this horror show saw around 2,000 United fans make the pilgrimage to the Netherlands, whether among the 1,300 with tickets or the remainder who made their voices heard by the canals of Amsterdam.

The exuberant Arabs lapped up every moment of their first European adventure in 10 years, with the likes of young Lucas Lowdon making plenty of friends along the way. 

Alkmaar was a joyous scene on Thursday; with a sea of Tangerine – including 1994 Scottish Cup winning legend Guido van de Kamp – taking up residence in Waagplein Square.

And then the football started.

AZ Alkmaar are always different team on home soil

The Eredivisie outfit lost just three league matches at the AFAS Stadion last term. They defeated Celtic 2-1 and, despite exiting the Europa League qualifying rounds on aggregate, gave the Hoops an almighty fright.

While the setting was not overly intimidating, nor at full capacity, AZ were a completely different team from the one that took to the field in Tayside.

The tempo; the technique; the clinical finishing. The gulf in class was nothing short of startling.

The opening goal was simply sumptuous: Milos Kerkez’s overlap, Reijnders’ pass, Pavlidis’ dummy then Kerkez’s calm pass across the face of goal for Pavlidis to slot home.

AZ players celebrate as they run riot

They, frankly, made the Tangerines’ midfield and back-line look like training cones.

Reijnders, a simply outstanding young midfield talent, notched a brace either side of Pavlidis’ header, before Evjen arrowed a magnificent finish into the top-corner from the edge of the box.

By the time de Wit and Lahdo sent AZ to seventh heaven, the United players looked as if they would rather be anywhere else.

16 year on, a night to forget for Mark Birighitti

As good as AZ were, United were every bit as bad.

Only Dylan Levitt – the only player who looked after the ball – escaped the first period with pass marks and, even then, he found himself regularly overrun.

Birighitti, in particular, endured a nightmare return to the AFAS Stadion, where he was on trial as a fresh-faced 15-year-old.

The Aussie stopper arguably could have got closer to Reijnders’ first goal, completely flapped at a corner-kick to allow Pavlidis to head home and make it 3-0.

There was another moment when he slipped and dropped a simple delivery, almost resulting in another goal.

After a promising start to his United career, the first 45 minutes was incredibly grim fare; the same could be said for many in United colours.

An early exodus

Tickets for the away end at the AFAS Stadion were like gold-dust.

It says everything that, once de Wit prodded home from close-range within minutes of the restart, there was a stream of Tangerine heading for the exit.

Six goals in 26 minutes; a preposterous collapse that was too much for many, even before Lahdo equalled the unwanted record.

Ross made it clear that United had a ‘responsibility’ to perform for those travelling supporters.

And the display of his players and, by definition – as the man who selected, set-up and motivated this team – himself, could not have been further from that.

They deserved so much better.

There cannot be another hangover

United’s showing against Livingston on Sunday was poor. And that was after a stirring, terrific victory at Tannadice.

They should have been on a high.

This is an entirely different challenge.

On Sunday, the Tangerines travel to face Hearts – the third-best team in Scotland – and, in front of another sold-out away section, owe the punters and themselves a performance.

With one point from the opening two league games of the Premiership season so far, Ross and United cannot allow this campaign to get away from them in the haze of a Holland hangover.