Managerial talk had monopolised pre-match matters. Rangers, though leaders, have not had it all their own way and inevitably coach Dick Advocaat's position has been put under scrutiny.
Having splashed out pounds 30m in the first six months of his two-year contract, the Dutchman's appraisal of his present squad has raised a few eyebrows. "We have bought many players but some of them might never prove good enough," he says.
At Tannadice, chairman Jim McLean has dispensed with three managers in the last five years. The appointment of the fourth, Paul Sturrock, four months ago, gave cause for optimism. However, the best laid schemes have gone adrift, as has United's season. Languishing only two points above the bottom club Dunfermline, the pressure is on Sturrock.
Both teams showed changes from last Saturday. The visitors, without Colin Hendry, gave a starting debut to Neil McCann. United dropped Kjell Olofsson, the subject of a recent media outburst by Sturrock at what he perceives unreasonable wage demands for the Swede to sign a new contract.
It was United who were the first to threaten but Billy Dodds failed to make contact in a goalmouth scramble. Rangers responded and Stephane Guivarc'h was inches away after Jason de Vos mistimed a clearance. In the 32nd minute the visitors seized the lead, leaving De Vos to rue his luck. A Wallace cross was headed goalwards by Scott Wilson, and the aid of a slight deflection from the Canadian gave Wilson his first goal for the club.
De Vos redeemed himself three minutes from half-time when, from a corner, he returned the ball into the danger zone for Dodds to equalise.
Both teams began the second period briskly, each having a penalty claim refused. A spell of pressure from the home side followed, during which Wilson almost knocked the ball past his own keeper, and De Vos shaved the post with a 25-yard drive.
With 15 minutes left Dodds came close to scoring his second, his angular drive evading Stefan Klos and the far post.
Then came the cruellest of blows to the home side. The Finn, Jonatan Johansson, embarked on a mazy run from left to right and slipped the ball to Gabriel Amato. The Argentine crossed to Wallace, totally unmarked, to score the winner from six yards out.
"United fought for every metre and never gave us any space. This is an important win for us," said Advocaat afterwards. "Wallace is paid to score and he was excellent again for us tonight."
The one blow for Advocaat was the ankle injury to Guivarc'h after 35 minutes. "He needs to go to hospital for tests, and we are not sure about Sunday against Celtic. It is difficult to say, but he is doubtful now."
Dundee United (4-4-2): Combe; Malpas, Pedersen, Pascual, Duffy; De Vos, Easton, Mols, Mathie; Dodds, Miller. Substitutes not used: Olofsson, Dolan, Thompson, Skoldmark, Gallacher (gk).
Rangers (4-4-2): Klos; Porrini, Amoruso, Albertz (Miller, 72), Wilson; Vidmar, Van Bronckhorst, B Ferguson, McCann (Johansson, 75); Wallace, Guivarc'h (Amato, 35). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Malcolm.
Referee: M McCurry (Glasgow).Reuse content