Dundee United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
THE sight of Dundee United players parading the Scottish Cup around Hampden was something many of their supporters thought they would never witness. Six times previously United had been in the final and six times they failed to collect the trophy. Then along came Ivan Golac.
The Croatian took over last summer as manager from Jim McLean, who had presided over all of the Cup defeats, and immediately started to tell anyone who would listen that Dundee United would win prizes under his guidance.
Most dismissed his words as the ramblings of a romantic, but yesterday he lived up to all the talk. His team deserved their victory because they performed better than Rangers, who could not raise their game after falling behind.
Craig Brewster scored the only goal two minutes into the second half after an appalling blunder involving Dave McPherson and the Rangers goalkeeper Ally Maxwell. 'I said to them during the break 'if you don't make any errors you will win the Cup',' said the Rangers manager Walter Smith. 'Two minutes later the words came back to haunt me.'
In an attempt to inject fresh enthusiasm, Smith took off Ally McCoist and sent on Duncan Ferguson, who only last week was given a 12-match suspension, but the ploy didn't work. United defended their lead well.
Ferguson, who signed a year ago from Dundee United for pounds 4m, was able to play yesterday because Rangers lodged an appeal against his ban. The punishment had been imposed by the SFA because of an alleged headbutting incident which is the subject of court action.
Ferguson stood around with his team-mates at the end in utter dejection watching Dundee United climb the stairs to claim the Cup. Rangers had come so close to an historic achievement. With the League Cup and the Premier Division title already in the bag, they had been on the verge of becoming the first club to win back-to- back trebles.
But more than that particular dream died at Hampden. It is clear after yesterday's defeat that Smith will have to make fundamental changes. Too many of his players have grown old together and to maintain their domination of Scottish football, Rangers will have to make at least three major close- season signings.
However, while Smith and his players were digging deep into their memory banks for ways of coping with failure, it was a sweet feeling for Dundee United to triumph at last. It was ironic, too, that Golac should win at his first attempt. 'It was nice of United to wait all these years until I arrived to win the Cup,' he said, a remark which typifies his approach.
So laid back as to be almost horizontal, he took a few months to win over the players, who had grown used to McLean's browbeating and occasionally intimidating style, but they have come to respect Golac and his methods.
The Croatian said before the match that United would attack Rangers and so they did. Indeed they might have scored a few goals in the first half. They might also have had a penalty after Ian Ferguson appeared to have brought Alex Cleland down inside the Rangers box in the first half, but the referee dismissed all claims.
'That only made us more determined,' Golac said. They were that and more, although the manager still insists he will have to make changes. 'I want us to go on from here and unfortunately some players will have to be moved on,' he said.
However, he will hold on to men such as Gordan Petric, David Hannah, Christian Dailly, and Andy McLaren who all had excellent matches and around whom a team could be built.
Rangers: Maxwell; Stevens (Mikhailichenko, 25), D Robertson, Gough, McPherson, McCall, Murray, I Ferguson, McCoist (D Ferguson, 72), Hateley, Durie.
Dundee United: Van de Kamp; Cleland, Malpas, McInally, Petric, Welsh, Bowman, Hannah, McLaren (Nixon, 83), Brewster, Dailly. Sub not used: Bollan.
Referee: D Hope (Erskine).
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