Football: United in form

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The Independent Online
AFTER two games of Scotland's Premier Division season, Rangers and Dundee United are the only teams with maximum points, writes Rupert Metcalf. For the champions from Ibrox, anything less than that from two relatively undemanding home games would have been an embarrassment. For the Tayside team, however, two away wins have produced an encouraging start to a campaign in which they have much to prove.

Neither of the joint leaders have found top form to date, with Rangers looking lacklustre against both St Johnstone and Airdrie. They travel to Hibernian today, with Trevor Steven due to make his first appearance of the season.

For Dundee United, though, expectations are less lofty, and they will be very satisfied with 1-0 wins at Motherwell and Partick Thistle. Today, United begin their home programme against Heart of Midlothian, whose combative centre- forward, Ian Baird, is doubtful.

The Tannadice Park team, without any summer signings, are relying on their productive youth policy to restore their reputation as a side to be feared at home and in Europe. The tall 20-year-old centre-forward Duncan Ferguson, now a full international, is their most-prized asset, but other less heralded names are competing for attention.

Against Partick on Wednesday, Grant Johnson, also 20, was the most accomplished midfield player on view. Dundee born, he made his first-team debut last March. He has considerable energy allied to a deft touch; it was his perceptive through pass which made Paddy Connolly's winning goal at Firhill Park.

John O'Neil, a 21-year-old forward, and the wing-back, Alex Clelland, also 21, are two more young Tannadice talents to watch. With the vastly experienced David Narey and Maurice Malpas still in fine form, United have good reason for optimism.