There is a first time for everything and Dundee United’s Stuart Armstrong certainly enjoyed his first taste of success against Celtic.
The midfielder scored what proved to be the winner on 65 minutes at Tannadice yesterday, heading home a sublime cross from striker Nadir Ciftci.
That put the Tangerines 2-0 up thanks to Ciftci’s strike after just five minutes and, while sub Leigh Griffiths got one back for the Hoops with just three minutes to go, the home team held on for a rare and welcome win over the Parkhead men.
That victories over the champions don’t come along often was proved by Armstrong’s admission that he had never played in a winning side against them at senior level.
He was an unused substitute the last time United did get all three points in this fixture, a 1-0 triumph on May 6, 2012, when Scott Robertson headed home the only goal of the game.
But this was on a whole new ball game for Armstrong.
He said: “I have never beaten Celtic at first-team level so it is a great thing for me personally.
“We came very close last season so it’s nice to be a part of a team that has finally done it.
“You see by the reaction aferwards that everyone was over the moon.
“To come away with something today we needed a bit of luck because Celtic are a quality team. They are always going to create chances and punish you more often than not.
“Despite our record against them, I really enjoy playing Celtic.
“They are a good team and pass the ball well so it’s nice to compare yourself against the best quality in the country, I suppose.”
Armstrong admitted the majority of his colleagues would have accepted a draw from the match had that been on offer beforehand.
“I think most of us would have thought it would have been good to have come away with a point today so to get a win that pushed us higher up the league is great,” he added.
“It’s great for the league and the fans that there are three or four teams up there challenging Celtic.
“I think that makes it a bit more exciting than it usually is.
“I don’t think our lads are thinking we will definitely be challenging for the league, however. Instead, it will be game by game for us.
“We had a bad Christmas period last season so hopefully this one can be better.
“We had a young team then and that meant we were inconsistent.
“I think we have learned from that and will make sure we are more solid and consistent in the tough matches that lie ahead.
“There is also real competition for places and I don’t think any of us knows what the team will be from one week to the next.
“That’s good because everyone wants to play their best if they want to keep the shirt.”
Armstrong, to his credit, appreared to easily brush off pre-match speculation linking him with a move to the Hoops.
There was also the small matter of Celtic manager Ronny Deila comparing him to German superstar Thomas Muller, while skipper Scott Brown helpfully added that he would fit in well at Celtic Park.
Appearing rather embarrassed by it all – especially the Muller bit – Armstrong said: “I didn’t see that, no, but I think it is a compliment and it’s nice to see interest there.
“I think everyone has dreams and ambitions but I want to focus on where I am at the minute, taking each game as it comes and try to do my best for the team.”
Tannadice manager Jackie McNamara, commenting on the rumours surrounding the former Scotland under-21 skipper, said: “Speculation has been part of it since I came here and it will be until the end of January when the window closes.
“I am hopeful I will still have the same squad, maybe with one or two coming in instead of going out.
“It is a compliment to the players it’s always nice for them to be linked but for the manager it doesn’t help.
“Last year it wasn’t one or two. It was six or seven and we lost a couple mentally for a few weeks because of that and sent Ryan Gauld and John Souttar on holiday because of that.
“Stuart was linked, Nadir was linked, Gary Mackay-Steven was linked.
“It will hopefully not be as many this year and there were no signs of losing focus today.
“Of course, silly money changes everything.
“It was the same in the summer with Andrew Robertson. You don’t want him to go and don’t want to sell him but there comes a point when you have to accept it.
“But every team in Scotland is a selling club. Celtic is a selling club so you could try to sell some of their players over the next few weeks.”
That dig at the media still hanging in the air, McNamara was then asked what kind of fee United would be looking for in Armstrong’s case.
He added: “We would want the going rate.
“We don’t need to sell because we are debt free and everything is good. We don’t have to sell anybody.
“If the right offer came in, then I’m sure the chairman and the rest of the board would look at it but the most important thing is to keep them here, let them progress and learn.”