NEXT month’s Scottish Cup final is set to be a staging post in the development of Jackie McNamara’s young team, who appear destined for more success in the seasons to come provided they stay together – but there are already doubts over the future of some squad members, including defender Gavin Gunning.
The 23-year-old, who moved to United on a three-year contract in the summer of 2011, has already been linked with Rangers, who his team defeated 3-1 in Saturday’s semi-final.
As things stand, the final at Celtic Park could be Gunning’s last for the club. After the match, he said he wanted to stay, but added that matters were out of his hands. “Hopefully it’s not going to be my last game for Dundee United, and hopefully I’ll be here next season,” he said – meaning Tannadice, home of his current employers, not Ibrox, where he was actually talking. “But it would be a great to one to win – I mean, when do you get a chance to win the cup when you’re not at Celtic or Rangers? It’s a massive chance for us now and we’re there on merit.
“We’re playing some good football and when we’re on it I think we’re hard to deal with for anybody, but sometimes we let ourselves down and get a bit sloppy. But I think the boys dug in well and were deserved winners.”
Asked again if the match on 17 May was likely to be his last, Gunning continued: “I don’t know. I’ll just keep playing and then see what happens in the summer. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’m still in talks with United. I just leave it to my agent so I don’t know what’s happening.”
Rangers’ need for central defenders was again obvious on Saturday, and a move to Ibrox would unite Gunning with his friend, near-neighbour and fellow-Irishman Jon Daly.
But, asked about the possibility about trading his current employers for a campaign in the Championship next season, he was again non-commital. “I don’t know,” he said.
“You never know in football what’s around the corner. I don’t know. I’ve loved my time here. The manager has done really well since he’s come in.”
That manager, Jackie McNamara, will take his team back to his old club ground for the final, but insisted that his main concern at Parkhead would simply be ensuring his team do themselves justice on their big day.
“It wouldn’t matter where it was played, but it would be nice to go back there and win it,” said McNamara, for whom next month’s match will be a first cup final as a manager. “I just wish I was playing. I’d rather have been out there playing myself, but this is the next best thing. It’s a great feeling, but it’s down to the players. They’re the ones who got us there”