Dixon urges United to prove they can replace trio

Adam Rooney celebrates after giving the Dons a 1-0 lead early in the second half, the striker's ninth goal of the season. Picture: SNS
Adam Rooney celebrates after giving the Dons a 1-0 lead early in the second half, the striker's ninth goal of the season. Picture: SNS
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It may have been remembrance weekend but Paul Dixon has warned his Dundee United team-mates must forget about the past and focus firmly on the future if they hope to enjoy successful careers at Tannadice.

The left-back returned to action in Saturday’s defeat at Pittodrie after two months on the sidelines following a hernia operation, adding some much needed experience to a side who have slipped deeper into crisis during his absence.

His presence wasn’t enough to prevent second-half goals by Adam Rooney and Jonny Hayes giving Aberdeen a thoroughly deserved first win in seven matches, but it was enough to leave no-one in the United dressing room in any doubt that it’s not only new manager Mixu Paatelainen who is prepared to do some straight talking.

This result leaves them 20 points worse off than they were at the same stage last season when Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-­Steven and Nadir Ciftci were still wearing tangerine and challenging Celtic, not playing for them.

Now, instead of using those departures as an excuse for dreadful results, Dixon wants those left behind to show they have the quality and determination needed to prove they are good enough to replace them.

“People keep speaking about all these players leaving but that is in the past now,” he said. “There is nothing we can do about that. It happens in football and you have to move on.

“Boys get their chance when players leave and they have to take it. They have got a great opportunity playing for a great football club who have been fighting for cups over the last few years and playing in Europe. They have got to realise the stature of this football club and perform week in week out. You can’t just turn up on Saturday and believe it is going to happen. It is not as simple as turning up, putting on your boots and strip. You have to do the hard miles and dirty work before you can even think about passing the ball. You have got to win ugly, especially with the situation we are in.”

The best they could have hoped for on Saturday was to draw ugly as the lack of creativity in midfield left Billy Mckay and Adam Taggart isolated figures starved of service up front in a side who haven’t scored from open play in seven games.

Two banks of four defensively frustrated Aberdeen for long spells but United’s concentration was always likely to slip and it did when Rooney forced in his ninth goal of the season in 52 minutes by simply showing more desire to win the ball.

Hayes was rewarded for a sparkling display of wing play with the second in 73 minutes and fellow Irishman Willo Flood believes their overall display indicates they are ready to challenge his old pal Robbie Neilson for runners-up spot.

“Robbie keeps saying that Hearts aren’t going for second but I don’t believe him” said Flood. “I know Robbie as a fella and I know Craig Levein as well. Hearts are desperate to get second place believe me. If we play like we did today then I’m confident we can get second place.”