Having played six times in the Cup final without once leaving with the trophy, United might have been expected to be dogged by apprehension, but a change of manager last close-season has imbued them with fresh hope. After having been wary of Ivan Golac, United's players are now firm believers in the former Yugoslav international's alternative and sometimes radical methods.
This week Golac, who seems oblivious to adversity, will take his squad for a quiet drink and a walk in the park where they will chat about the weather, nature, music or anything else which might come into someone's mind. Eventually they will get around to the final itself.
'Yes, I know it was strange for the players at first, but I believe in doing things differently,' said Golac, who claims that in order to love life, football included, a person must first love nature and music. There are differences in the way the Continentals and British approach football and I want to take the best of both and see that in United. I want to be different and I want my players to be different. They should be distinctive.'
Rangers are only one match away from becoming the first club to win back-to-back trebles. The last time Rangers and the Tannadice side met in the final - in 1981 - the Ibrox side won 4-1 in a replay after a scoreless draw. All of United's failures came under Jim McLean, who is chairman now and responsible for the appointment of Golac. The Scottish Cup was the only trophy to elude McLean and it might be that fate has singled out the new man for glory, though Golac will have to compensate for the considerable loss through suspension of his influential midfield player Billy McKinlay.
Even though the Ibrox treatment room resembles casualty at Glasgow Royal Infirmary on a Saturday night, Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, is relieved to be returning to football matters following police charges made against Robertson, who is alleged to have vandalised a car after a night out, and Ferguson, who has incurred the Draconian wrath of the SFA following an alleged head-butting incident.
Smith has already lost Andy Goram, John Brown, and Gary Stevens to various injuries and the list of those still receiving treatment is lengthy, but the manager retains a strong belief in the ability of those who must fill the gaps. 'We have won the League Cup and the championship, but we want to finish the season in style.'
Smith's problems would have been eased had Ferguson been available, but the pounds 4m striker has been suspended for 12 matches even though police charges have been made. United must be smiling. After all, they sold Ferguson to Rangers.
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