Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson approaches Betfred Cup with different mindset to Csaba Laszlo

© SNSRobbie Neilson.
Robbie Neilson.

Just as he did before the Scottish Cup began last season, Robbie Neilson has made his pre-Betfred Cup declaration that Dundee United are in it to win it.

Some managers – his predecessor Csaba Laszlo, for one – have viewed the summer groups stages as glorified pre-season friendlies.

But Neilson’s mindset is a different one, as he prepares to start the season against his old club hearts tomorrow night.

“You need to try and win it,” said the Tannadice boss.

“We’re going to Tynecastle full strength. There might be a couple of changes at Stenhousemuir after that but no more than that.

“If boys start and do well they’ll play the next game, which will be the case throughout the group stage of the competition.

“If we need to change the team up a bit more, we can do that at Shrewsbury.

“For me, the Betfred is really important. We want to get to the next stage – for the players, the fans and the club. It will also be important to build momentum going into the league.”

Hearts are the strong favourites to top group A but Neilson is happy to be facing them first up.

“It’s great,” he said. “If you’d given me the choice that is probably what I would have gone for.

“Finishing with two home games (Cowdenbeath and East Fife) is a good opportunity to build momentum.

“The boys have known throughout pre-season that Hearts are up first. That’s been their carrot. And they know that if they’re not at it, they could get turned over.”

On coming up against the club he managed and played for, Neilson said: “It will be my first time back. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great place to play football.

“If you can get in front early it can be a big advantage for an away team but it can be tough if you don’t.

“I obviously had a great time there as a player and a manager and I know a lot of people at the club. But I want to go there and win.

“I’m Dundee United manager now.”

Despite getting to the Scottish Cup final, Hearts’ general form in the last few months of the season was poor.

And the pressure is on Craig Levein to make a fast start in the Betfred.

“At any big club you’re expected to win every single week,” said Neilson. “It’s the same at Dundee United.

“If you don’t then you come under pressure. You accept that as a manager.

“Craig has more experience than virtually anyone in Scottish football. He came in as director of football at a time when the club was in trouble and turned it around.

“Then he turned it around as a manager when the club was struggling again.

“He’s had a chance to build in close-season and Hearts will 100% be in the top six. Where in the top six will determine whether it’s been a success or not.

“Hearts have got a big squad with different options.

“We’ll focus on ourselves because we know that whatever team they put out we’re in for a tough game.”