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Dundee United

Dundee United wanted Liverpool after European Cup heroics against Rapid Vienna

The United fans partied on the pitch when the Tangerines reached the last-four of the European Cup in 1984.
Graeme Strachan
The Dundee United players celebrate on the pitch with the fans.
The United players celebrated on the pitch with the fans. Image: DC Thomson.

Dundee United manager Jim McLean was dreaming of Liverpool after reaching the European Cup semi-final in 1984.

United fans invaded the pitch 40 years ago after McLean’s side defeated Rapid Vienna by the narrowest of margins.

It was a nail-biting encounter at Tannadice.

United qualified for the last eight after putting six past Hamrun Spartans and four past Standard Liege to no reply.

Rapid won the first leg 2-1 in Austria on March 7 with goals from Max Hagmayr and Zlatko Kranjcar, after Derek Stark opened the scoring for McLean’s men.

United were defeated but left with a vital away goal.

In those days, in the event that a two-legged home and away tie finished level, the team that had scored more away goals would progress.

Derek Stark in his Tangerines kit and holding a football
Derek Stark scored the vital goal in Vienna. Image: DC Thomson.

McLean didn’t need to give a team talk for the second leg at Tannadice on March 21, after being left incensed by Rapid manager Otto Baric’s post-match remarks.

“I am confident we will score in Dundee and win the tie there,” Baric said.

“We were streets ahead of them, although they are a well-disciplined side.

“I thought they were very ordinary.

“In fact, one of the poorest sides we have played in Europe.”

This is our World Cup.”

Dundee United goalie Hamish McAlpine before the Rapid tie

McLean stuck his comments up on the dressing-room wall.

He wanted his players to show Baric how good they really were.

Goalkeeper Hamish McAlpine became involved in the psychological warfare just before the players were leaving the dressing room.

He told his teammates: “Half of us are not good enough to play in the World Cup.

“This is our World Cup.

“Let’s go out and win it.”

Davie Dodds was Dundee United hero against Rapid Vienna

United made one change from the first leg with Tommy Coyne making his European debut in place of Ralph Milne, who was on the bench.

The Austrians played the same team that won 2-1 in Vienna.

Rapid were packed with talent including European Golden Boot winner Hans Krankl, who is rightly regarded as Austria’s greatest player.

United started off confidently before a noisy 17,442 crowd and put Rapid under pressure with goalkeeper Feurer struggling to handle simple crosses.

He looked shaky and needlessly got his fellow defenders on edge.

Herbert Feurer stoops to gather in a ball in the Austrians' goalmouth
Rapid Vienna goalie Herbert Feurer struggled against Dundee United at Tannadice.  Image: DC Thomson.

Tannadice was a fantastic place on European nights with the punters packed in tight and right on top of the pitch.

The atmosphere was electric.

Play was scrappy before the best effort arrived on 19 minutes when Feurer did well to save a volley from Richard Gough after Eamonn Bannon’s free kick.

The crowd were giving the home side plenty of encouragement.

Key goal for the Tangerines…

On 21 minutes the pressure paid off.

Gough took a throw-in on the right and collected a return pass from Coyne before putting in a cross that found Stark running into the box.

The midfielder played a pass to Davie Dodds who struck the ball with his left foot on the turn and high into the roof of the net from six yards.

It was the striker’s eighth goal in European football.

Davie Dodds challenges for a high ball against Rapid Vienna.
Davie Dodds challenges for a high ball against Rapid Vienna. Image: DC Thomson.

Rapid needed to score to progress and started to look dangerous with Czechoslovakia international Panenka going close with a 29th-minute volley.

On 35 minutes United might have put the game out of sight when Kirkwood sent a low drive into the goalmouth and Dodds just failed to connect.

Rapid ended the half strongly.

Derek Stark’s away goal proved vital

United almost scored after the break when Stark collected a pass from Paul Sturrock and his shot from 25 yards struck the post on the way past.

On 59 minutes McLean sent on Ralph Milne for Tommy Coyne.

McAlpine had to make his first real save of the game from a powerful drive by Keglevits on 62 minutes, with Rapid going for the goal to take them through.

On 66 minutes the Austrian keeper brought off a magnificent save from Dodds when he touched the ball over for a corner kick.

Krankl shot over at the other end from a good position.

Feurer made a tremendous save from Milne with play going back and forth.

McAlpine saved at the death when Keglevits burst through following a solo run before United saw the game out to go through on the away goals rule.

The Dundee United players are mobbed by the fans as they try to leave the Tannadice pitch after the Rapid Vienna game
The United players are mobbed by the fans. Image: DC Thomson.

Courier writer Tommy Gallacher watched events at Tannadice.

The legendary scribe followed every game during Dundee FC’s fairytale run to the European Cup semi-final in 1963 and was now covering United’s glory years.

Gallacher said: “Derek Stark, who always seems at his best in Europe, made a massive contribution.

“He was involved in everything.

“He ran and tackled and passed as though his life depended on it, and, over the two games, his was the most memorable display of dedicated endeavour.

“As the scorer in Vienna and provider of the pass for the winner in Dundee, the Fifer stamped his name on the tie as a whole.”

Jim McLean weighed up next opponents

The jubilant supporters continued the celebrations in the city’s pubs and clubs.

Jim McLean said it came very close to the thrill that winning the Premier League title had given him in 1983.

The jubilant Dundee players celebrate in the dressing room after beating Rapid Vienna
The Dundee United players celebrate beating Rapid Vienna in the European Cup. Image: DC Thomson.

McLean said: “This is a magnificent result against a side I rate very highly, but in no way was it our best performance in Europe.

“But the whole team worked their hearts out, and we can all be very proud of the achievement in reaching the semi-final of the European trophy for the first time.

“It’s a great night for Dundee United.”

Dinamo Bucharest, Liverpool and Roma were possible adversaries in the semi-final.

“Years ago we would have felt inferior being in the draw with teams like Liverpool, Roma and Dinamo Bucharest and, strictly speaking, we have no right to be there, if you are speaking about resources,” he said.

“But we have every right to be there on our performances.”

McLean made no secret of who he wanted in the last four.

“I would like Liverpool from the travelling point of view, if for nothing else,” he said.

“Kenny Dalglish has always said we would meet at some stage of the competition.

“I hope he is right.

“I know we can give them a good game and while I also know they could beat us, I
feel that we are also quite capable of beating them.”

Roma were the team to avoid in European Cup draw

He did not want Roma, whose side included Brazilian World Cup stars Roberto Falcao, Toninho and Cerezo and Italian winger Bruno Conti.

“It’s my opinion that AS Roma are the best side left of the three others,” he said.

“That’s why I would rather meet Liverpool or the Romanian side.”

Then the fickle hand of fate intervened.

United were drawn against Roma in the semi-final and history tells us it would all go wrong in the most controversial of circumstances.

But that’s a story for another day.