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5 Dundee United transfer window priorities as January looms

Boss Jim Goodwin has made it clear that the Tangerines have the means to strengthen next month.

Dundee United boss Jim Goodwin on the touchline.
Goodwin has overseen a good campaign to date, especially given the rebuilding job that was required. Image: SNS

The January transfer window creaks ajar in a matter of days.

By manager Jim Goodwin’s own admission, Dundee United are seeking a “jag” of quality and impetus after enduring a festive wobble and slipping behind Raith Rovers in the race for the Championship title.

They will be backed to do so by owner Mark Ogren.

From speed in attack to assessing the progress of his loan stars, Courier Sport analyses some of the Tangerines’ top priorities next month.

A pacey attacker

In Louis Moult, Dundee United have a centre-forward with an eye for goal, intelligent movement and link-up play, and outstanding leadership qualities.

Even amid his current travails – eight games without rippling the net – he is a proven marksman with Premiership pedigree.

Tony Watt has illustrated his versatility throughout the campaign, scoring five times when deployed as a striker and otherwise doing a solid job in attacking midfield; not his most natural role.

However, neither man is blessed with blistering pace. And those are United’s only two senior options.

It was notable during United’s frustrating 0-0 draw with Queen’s Park last Friday that the Spiders felt comfortable fielding a perilously high defensive line, backing their defenders to either catch Moult offside or make up the ground.

A speedy, tireless forward would be a welcome addition to Goodwin’s group – a player who could stretch defences, play on the shoulder, and pull some of the focus away from Moult.

A different dimension.

Goodwin recently spoke about the swirling social media rumours regarding Simon Murray and, while the former Tannadice striker may not necessarily return, a Simon Murray type would fit the bill perfectly.

Engine room focus

When captain Ross Docherty has started, United have claimed 25 Championship points from a possible 27.

Without him, the tally stands at 10 from a possible 21.

While every game must be judged on its own merits, it is a statistic that speaks volumes regarding the importance of Docherty.

Ross Docherty in action for Dundee United
Ross Docherty has been sorely missed. Image: SNS

Not only is he an incredibly effective defensive shield, but he breaks the lines with his passing, starts attacks and allows Craig Sibbald the freedom to shine. United desperately need to get their skipper fit regularly.

But, given that has been a challenge in recent months, an effective Plan B is needed.

Allied with the fact a high proportion of the Tangerines attacks are focused down the flanks – something opponents are clearly aware of now – it adds to a sense of something missing in the engine room.

Could Goodwin find balance and depth in the January sales?

Cover at centre-back

If Ollie Denham isn’t going to feature between now and the end of the season, it is difficult to see how that benefits United, the player or parent club Cardiff City.

Having arrived at Tannadice with a decent reputation – former Manchester United kid; long-listed for the Wales 2022 World Cup squad – he endured miserable outings against Spartans and Partick Thistle.

Blair Henderson and Brian Graham gave the young centre-back a torrid time.

And he hasn’t been seen since.

Dundee United's Ollie Denham is beaten in the air by Brian Graham of Partick Thistle
Ollie Denham is beaten in the air by Brian Graham. Image: SNS

Such has been Goodwin’s reluctance to turn to Denham that he has fielded Ross Graham, a naturally left-sided centre-back, at right centre-back when Declan Gallagher has been absent.

If Denham is not in the picture – and he could yet enjoy a renaissance under Goodwin; stranger things have happened – then United need a right-footed centre-back they trust to cover for Gallagher.

Decision on loan stars

With a finite budget – that £4 million reduction in revenue is a persistent spectre at the feast – Goodwin could find inspiration within his own wider squad.

Logan Chalmers has already done the Terrors a turn recently, netting a stunner against Raith Rovers as Ayr United secured a 4-4 draw at Stark’s Park last Friday.

He has scored five goals for the Honest Men and notched three assists. Another stint at Ayr last term was similarly successful, while he was outstanding for Inverness in the second half of 2021/22.

Chalmers is generally a very capable Championship performer and undoubtedly possesses that piece of magic required to unlock massed ranks; something Goodwin’s side have struggled with of late.

However, in the final six months of his deal, Chalmers clearly wants regular football and Glenn Middleton, Kai Fotheringham and Mathew Cudjoe have all, at various points this campaign, been excellent. Would he be above any of them in the pecking order?

Lewis O’Donnell at Kelty Hearts and Miller Thomson at Montrose have also impressed in central midfield roles.

Montrose's on-loan Dundee United man Miller Thomson unleashes a shot on goal against Hamilton
Miller Thomson has impressed in midfield at Montrose. Image: Pheonix Photography.

It will be intriguing to see whether Goodwin reckons any of the current crop of loan stars are capable of replicating Fotheringham last term and returning in January to make a positive impression in the United side.

Overseeing exits

United did a decent job in the transfer market last summer – particularly in terms of the outgoings.

Courier Sport understands the Tangerines managed to chop north of £2 million from their wage bill, as well as banking fees for the likes of Dylan Levitt, Aziz Behich and Carljohan Eriksson.

Mark Birighitti during the Dundee United warm-up
Mark Birighitti clutches a low shot. Image: SNS

To achieve that, while still building a competitive team for the coming season, was some solid work.

But one man they didn’t manage to move on was Mark Birighitti.

Goodwin reckons the Australian goalkeeper – now effectively fourth choice behind Jack Walton, Jack Newman and Ruaridh Adams – will want to leave next month as his contract ticks down towards summer 2024.

And that would be an important piece of business for the Tannadice outfit as they seek to free up some wiggle room in the budget.