The last time Dundee United played Celtic manager Mixu Paatelainen labelled their display as “Rubbish with a capital R.”
Since that dark day at Parkhead, when the Tangerines were trounced 5-0 by the Hoops on October 25, Paatelainen has spent every working hour trying to make United better, especially at the back.
He feels he has managed to do that despite the team languishing 11 points adrift at the foot of the Premiership.
That theory will be put to the test tonight when Celtic visit Tannadice on league business and Paatelainen wants to see improvement out on the pitch.
Asked if he thought the Tangerines can learn from that traumatic experience, Paatelainen replied: “Of course we can.
“We did not defend well at all.
“We certainly need to defend much better this time.
“I think we have made progress (since that game) – no question.
“When you look at the matches we played around that time and the match itself we now have a clarity about how we play, how we keep the ball, what positions to take, how to create overloads, how we create scoring opportunities.
“That was very early doors when we played at Celtic Park.
“We are much better now but, having said that, you never know how matches will go, especially against Celtic.”
It was then suggested to the big Finn that United don’t have anything to lose tonight and could therefore throw caution to the wind.
However, Paatelainen said: “I don’t think there is ever a match with nothing to lose.
“We have much to lose.
“We have three points to lose.
“We need points so there is plenty to lose.
“We want to approach this match to try to win it or, at worse, take a point.
“It won’t be easy playing against the highest quality in Scotland.
“It will be very difficult but on our day we know we can cause them problems and hopefully this will be our day.”
United go into the game on the back of a confidence-boosting Scottish Cup win over Airdrie last Saturday.
Blair Spittal’s superb freekick winner was a welcome tonic in this struggle of a season but Paatelainen played down the importance of the victory over the Diamonds.
He added: “I have been asked the question about potential turning points before.
“I think it is a question for after the season, if there was a turning point or not.
“It is difficult because even if we get a result against Celtic, the following week we face Kilmarnock, which is a very tough match.
“It is a difficult question to answer.
“I think you have to look back at the end of the season and see if there was a turning point or where it was.
“Yes, any win gives you confidence and is more than welcome.
“It is always positive when you win but is it a turning point? It is difficult to judge now.
“Yes, it was nice to get a victory against Airdrie but there has not been any difference in mood or attitude in training.
“Everything has been spot on, very professional and upbeat as always.”
United will be without suspended duo Mark Durnan and Guy Demel.
With Demel sitting this one out Paatelainen looks likely to give a start in midfield to Paul Paton, who came on as a late sub on Saturday.
The United gaffer said: “He is fit, has been training now for a few weeks and is looking good.
“He is a solid defensive midfield player and will be good to have in the team because of his talking as well.
“He demands, encourages and gives players praise. He is a leader type.
“He is solid in the tackle and does not shy away from those situations.
“Paul is very important for us.”