Though there is still defiance among Rangers fans in response to the crisis that engulfs their club, the team suffered their third defeat in four games. Meanwhile, among the indicative bids lodged ahead of Friday's offer deadline was one of four empty Irn Bru bottles – with the message that they could be redeemed and the money used to buy the club – and another from a man who wanted a birthday present for his grandson.
Celtic supporters will never tire of exploiting the troubles of their old rivals, but the humour will feel bitter to the Rangers support, especially as there is still a possibility that Neil Lennon's side could confirm themselves as champions with a win in the Old Firm game at Ibrox next Sunday.
Three known bidders have made an initial purchase offer for Rangers – Paul Murray, the former Rangers director; Brian Kennedy, the owner of Sale Sharks; and Club 9 Sports, a Chicago investment firm who failed in bids for Tranmere and Sheffield Wednesday – and other unidentified parties have made contact, including one from the Middle East.
"It's a time for cool heads," said Paul Clark, the administrator. "There are still several big issues we need to deal with. There was comment about whether we could get it resolved before the Old Firm game. That would be very optimistic. It will be clearer by that stage, but I don't think the position will be completely resolved."
The winning bid would fund a company voluntary arrangement that the club's creditors would then have to agree on for Rangers to come out of administration. That process still requires Craig Whyte to relinquish his shareholding, although Clark met the owner last week and remains confident there will be "no impediment" to the deal.
Rangers and their manager, Ally McCoist, have to accept their limitations. This was a makeshift side, with Andrew Mitchell, a 20-year-old, making his debut and Rhys McCabe, a midfielder, forced to play at right-back in only his second start for the club. There were still seven internationals on show, with a further three on the bench, but coming to Tannadice always threatened to be an ordeal against a vibrant young United side.
A Keith Watson volley, then Jon Daly's finish from Gary Mackay-Steven's cross, left the visitors reeling. They briefly rallied when Sone Aluko scored from a deflected cross, but it was nowhere near enough.
Dundee United (4-4-2): Pernis; Watson, Dillon, Gunning, Dixon; Flood, Robertson, Rankin, Mackay-Steven (Armstrong, 86); Daly, Russell (Ryan, 86).
Rangers: (4-5-1): McGregor; McCabe, McCulloch, Perry, Wallace; Mitchell (Aluko, 52), Davis, Edu, Bedoya (Hemmings, 82), Kerkar; Little.
Referee: Brian Winter
Man of the match: Mackay-Steven (Dundee Utd)