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7 matches that defined a dismal Dundee United campaign

United enjoyed brief highs and endured many more shuddering lows during the 2022/23 season.

Dundee United players on the pitch.
Disbelieving United players collapse 9-0 against Celtic. Image: SNS

Dundee United’s fate was officially sealed on Sunday.

A 3-2 defeat against Motherwell confirmed their relegation to the Championship following a dramatic, tumultuous campaign at Tannadice.

However, the damage was done long before Jim Goodwin’s side arrived on Fir Park Street.

Here, Courier Sport analyses the matches that defined a disastrous season.

Dundee United 1-0 AZ (August 4, 2022)

A false dawn.

When Glenn Middleton curled that sumptuous drive beyond Hobie Verhulst, causing an electric Tannadice to erupt, few could have guessed what the following nine months would bring.

The 1-0 triumph was a showcase of industry, organisation and, when it mattered, clinical finishing.

Yet, with the benefit of jarring hindsight, AZ clearly performed immeasurably below their own levels and, from manager to players, the notion that they might actually be eliminated by the Tangerines was a preposterous one to them.

They would soon show why.

AZ 7-0 Dundee United (August 11, 2022)

The harbinger of things to come.

There is no shame in losing at the AFAS Stadium. Ajax, Lazio, Anderlecht and many others have succumbed to the same fate since United.

There is no shame in getting battered, even.

AZ are top drawer and, having recently won the UEFA Youth League, are clearly doing a lot right.

But United’s complete collapse β€” the ragged shape, the failure to track runners, the woeful goalkeeping by Mark Birighitti β€” was less acceptable.

And it would not be the last time questions were asked regarding United’s gumption when the chips were down.

The only saving grace for the United fans was that, until the clock hit the 20-minute mark, their European foray to Amsterdam and Alkmaar was a vibrant, enjoyable one, with the Arabs painting the picturesque town Tangerine.

Dundee United 0-9 Celtic (August 28)

The match that ended Ross’ 10-week tenure as Dundee United manager and another meek capitulation.

The Hoops evisceration of the timid Terrors was silly by the end.

United shipped 23 goals in four games during this period and, should they have fancied it, Ange Postecoglou’s men would have hit double-figures.

This is the Tangerines’ heaviest ever league defeat.

Kilmarnock 1-0 Dundee United (February 1, 2023)

Frustration following a maddening January transfer window boiled over among the travelling support.

The decision to allow Tony Watt to join St Mirren on loan β€” following the summer sale of Nicky Clark to St Johnstone β€” without signing a replacement was inexplicable and ultimately foolhardy.

And a vocal portion of the fanbase made their feelings known in Ayrshire, unveiling a banner reading β€œAsghar Out”. That would be a theme in the coming month; a month Asghar would fail to navigate.

The Asghar out banner unveiled at Rugby Park.
A banner unveiled at Rugby Park the night after the transfer window closed. Image: SNS

On the pitch, it was a Sliding Doors encounter.

If Steven Fletcher has scored his 25th-minute penalty, it may have been a transformative moment.

However, it is impossible to argue that United deserved anything from the fixture. They were dire.

Dundee United 1-2 St Johnstone (February 18, 2023)

A celebration of the 1983 Premier Division heroes. A packed crowd. The likes of Davie Dodds, Paul Hegarty and Maurice Malpas taking the acclaim prior to kick-off.

Owner Mark Ogren was also in attendance.

What they all must have thought as a farce unfolded in front of their eyes.

Birighitti endured a miserable first season in Scotland. Image: Shutterstock.

Having levelled at 1-1, Birighitti collected a pass from Mulgrew and stood stock-still on his goal-line, allowing Stevie May to slide-table home the winner.

Goalkeepers make mistakes. It wasn’t deliberate. However, that does not make this error any less egregious, purely because it was so unique and utterly inexplicable.

That Birighitti played for United again is a testament to his mental strength β€” but also illustrative of the club having allowed his experienced deputy Carljohan Eriksson to leave on loan in January.

The night of that game, Ogren would address supporters at the Dundee Apex Hotel as they toasted the glories of β€˜83. His β€œGo United!” to conclude a brief speech did little to assuage the mounting fears of anxious Arabs.

Ross County 4-0 Dundee United (February 25, 2023)

The defeat was dire and damaging.

Its ramifications were seismic.

Making a last throw of the dice, Liam Fox selected Jack Newman ahead of Birighitti and, within six minutes, a mix-up between the rookie stopper, Ryan Edwards and Charlie Mulgrew allowed Eamonn Brophy to open the scoring.

Newman went on to have a decent game. Without a couple of fine stops, County would have registered a more comprehensive win than 4-0; a damning indictment.

Brophy and Jordan White bullied Mulgrew and Edwards, who were both left exposed by a high-line and non-existent cover.

It was a bad strategy by Fox, badly executed.

Make no mistake, this was worse than the defeats against AZ and Celtic. Both of those sides are excellent; County were just made to look it.

Calls for Asghar and Fox to go were almost constant from the away end. At one point, for the first time, ire turned on owner Ogren, who was present in Dingwall.

Within a week, both Fox and Asghar were gone.

Dundee United 0-3 Kilmarnock (May 24, 2023)

Sunday’s defeat at Motherwell may have rubber-stamped relegation, but it was all but assured following a woeful showing against Kilmarnock.

In front of more than 10,000 fans at Tannadice, United folded once more. A porous backline allowed Kyle Vassell to bag a brace before Innes Cameron added late gloss to the scoreline.