Derek McInnes is convinced Scottish football will be the winner if Aberdeen and Dundee United live up to the “New Firm” tag again.
That term was coined when Sir Alex Ferguson and Jim McLean had the north-east rivals fighting for honours in the 1980s.
The teams meet at Tannadice tomorrow desperate to prove they can mount a serious sustained challenge to Celtic again. A win will draw Aberdeen level on points with third-placed United and they have sold out their 3,600 ticket allocation.
Dons fans have already snapped up half of their 20,000 tickets for next month’s League Cup semi-final against the same opposition at Hampden. McInnes knows how important the fixture can be having experienced it as a player at Tannadice and now as manager at Pittodrie.
But he admits both clubs have a lot more hard work ahead before they can live up to the clashes of the past. He said: “It is good for the league that Aberdeen and Dundee United are competitive. I only look at my club but if both teams are doing well it can only be a good thing for our game.
“United have shown that improvement in the last couple of seasons, as we have ourselves. But I am sure both clubs believe there is further improvement to come and that’s the aim. Both clubs have aspirations to get back to the level they were at in the past on a regular basis.
“We are just flirting with it at the moment but we’re working hard at trying to sustain it for a long period of time.
“This is a game which both sets of supporters and players regard as one of the major games of the season. The fact both teams are up near the top of the league has added to the spectacle.”
McInnes’s main aim is to make sure the real Aberdeen turn up at Tannadice after losing 3-0 to their north-east rivals on the opening day of the season. That came just three days after the Dons were knocked out of the Europa League by Real Sociedad.
”I’m not going to make excuses as Dundee United fully deserved to win on the opening day of the season,” he said. “I probably picked the wrong team but United showed what they are capable of and they deserved to win the game.”
Meanwhile, the price of oil may be plummeting but Aberdeen have clinched a new sponsorship deal with Statoil to sponsor their youth academy. The Norwegian energy company has agreed a three-year deal with the option to extend it through until 2021.
The news comes at a time when Aberdeen are shortly expected to approve plans to clear their £14.5 million debt and announce construction of a purpose-built training ground.