Rangers. . . . . .0
TAYSIDE had waited 84 years to reclaim the Scottish Cup, yet there was Ivan Golac threatening to whisk it off to Trinidad brimming with 'plenty champagne'. It would not have happened in Jim McLean's day, and therein lay the difference which helped Dundee United banish their 'Hampden hoodoo'.
McLean, who in two decades moulded United from Dundee's second club into a force in Europe, led better sides than Saturday's into the end-of-season showpiece. And few, if any, of their conquerors possessed the quality of Rangers' Treble-seekers. To lose one final looks like misfortune, to have lost all six suggested a team affected by their manager's nervousness in need of fresh impetus.
Enter Golac, once of Partizan Belgrade and Torquay, last summer. The contrast with his predecessor, who is now chairman, could scarcely be starker. Where McLean counselled caution and discipline, Golac stopped the team bus at off-licences. While McLean had distrusted the media, Golac has proved a compulsive communicator, rashly promising a trophy in his first year.
In the event, United finished two points clear of relegation, but that was forgotten as they swigged from their first Scottish Cup.
Arriving in the interview-room with his shirt collar unbuttoned and shoes scuffed, the personable Yugoslav (as he regards himself) confessed to surprise at having fulfilled his promise.
Beginner's luck, maybe, though it was instructive to hear Maurice Malpas, the long-serving captain, stress the words 'relaxed' and 'positive' in describing a build-up which culminated in a jaunt to Hamilton races 24 hours before kick-off.
That it had been possible to back United at 9-2 in a two-horse affair shows the extent to which they upset the form book. While Golac's psychology was clearly significant, attitude was never going to be enough to beat the holders unless allied to ability.
United had lashings of the latter, nowhere more relentlessly applied than in central defence. To round off an eventful week for Golac's scattered compatriots - ranging from a title-blowing penalty miss by Miroslav Djukic for La Coruna in Spain to the sublime skills of Dejan Savicevic and Zvonimir Boban in Milan's European Cup romp - Gordan Petric took the man-of-the-match award.
Golac's Serbian sweeper oozed class and composure. He was equally unflustered at having to shadow Duncan Ferguson when Walter Smith threw on the former Tannadice tyro in a late attempt to disrupt United's pattern. Ferguson, cleared to play after appealing against a 12-game ban for butting, made no more impression than Mark Hateley, who tends to use his head to more wholesome effect.
Hateley's lack of impact, at the end of season when his 30 goals have often carried Rangers, reflected enormous credit on his marker, Brian Welsh. Though Petric's languid authority caught the eye, he had space and time to play whereas Welsh had to tame the brute force of Scotland's player of the year. Promotion to the national squad will surely follow.
Unyielding defence, backed up by Guido van de Kamp's stunning save from Alexei Mikhailichenko minutes after Craig Brewster's goal, gave United the platform from which to unsettle Rangers' square back line. The mobility of Christian Dailly and Andy McLaren encouraged the 12,000 tangerine dreamers, though like Chelsea at Wembley, United needed to score to enforce their superiority.
Moments after the interval the talk was of whodunit rather than hoodoo. There were two clear suspects: Dave McPherson, who made a risky back-pass, and Ally Maxwell, whose clearance was driven straight at Dailly. His shot from an acute angle hit a post, and the bustling Brewster gleefully converted the rebound.
'What jinx?' the match-winner roared afterwards. A lifelong United fan who was discarded by McLean but re-signed by Golac from Raith amid some raising of eyebrows, Brewster suffered on the terraces at the club's previous Hampden horrors.
Typically, Golac eschewed the usual platitudes. 'Unfortunately some players will have to go,' he said, looking forward to entry into the Cup-Winners' Cup on merit. 'There's no way we can go backwards.' Petric reckoned United had to buy two midfielders. The first could well be Branko Brnovic, for whom Golac is prepared to pay Partizan around pounds 750,000.
Smith will also be in the market. The championship and League Cup notwithstanding, Rangers are creaking ominously and it was no surprise that Richard Gough anticipated a summer of 'wheeling and dealing'. Having burnt his boats with Scotland, the Rangers captain's season is over, though several colleagues must psyche themselves up to face Ruud Gullit and Co in Utrecht on Friday.
By then United will be on a working holiday in the Caribbean. Hard as it is to imagine McLean quaffing bubbly on the beach, Golac's gallus style may have rubbed off even on this pillar of propriety. Spotting the chairman on the directors' coach, a posse of pressmen beckoned him, more in hope than expectation, to share his joy with them.
To their amazement, a severely groomed figure duly appeared. 'Let's just hope that's got the monkey off our backs,' McLean said, evidently having trouble believing that United really had broken the spell. One reporter swore he saw a flicker of a smile.
Goal: Brewster (47) 1-0.
Dundee United (1-4-2-3): Van de Kamp; Petric; Cleland, Welsh, Malpas, McInally; Bowman, Hannah; Dailly, Brewster, McLaren (Nixon, 83). Substitute not used: Bollan.
Rangers (4-4-2): Maxwell; Stevens (Mikhailichenko, 25), Gough, McPherson, D Robertson; Murray, I Ferguson, McCall, Durie; Hateley, McCoist (D Ferguson, 74).
Referee: D Hope (Erskine).Reuse content