Five things we learned from Dundee United 1-4 Celtic

Gavin Gunning (falling over) is a weak link in the United defence but Leigh Griffiths had a fine game. Picture: Getty
Gavin Gunning (falling over) is a weak link in the United defence but Leigh Griffiths had a fine game. Picture: Getty
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Craig Fowler looks back at a game which started in a back and forth manner before being dominated by the champions.

Stuart Armstrong was well up for facing his old side

Stuart Armstrong seemed well up for the match against his former employers. Picture: SNS Group

Stuart Armstrong seemed well up for the match against his former employers. Picture: SNS Group

The midfielder has played at Tannadice before, in a 3-0 win back in April, but he didn’t give a great account of himself and looked desperate to put that right from the off. He had two good chances in the opening exchanges before winning the free-kick that led to Celtic’s second after fighting for possession with Ryan McGowan.

This is the Armstrong that Celtic fans need to see more often. The player who undoubtedly has the talent to make his impact on matches and do so consistently. It appears all hope may be lost for Gary Mackay-Steven, but Armstrong hasn’t been written off yet. He’ll need to use this as a springboard for a better second half to the season. Otherwise his manager may search for an upgrade in the summer.

Tom Rogic has the quickest feet in all of the land

United started in their preferred formation of late: three centre backs and two holding midfielders with another two attacking midfielders in front of that. You cannot get any more narrow as a football team. Playing in the midst of all those tangerine bodies was Rogic. He should have had little chance of making an impact. He would be crowded out every time he touched the ball, surely? And yet, as usual in Scottish football this season, he was terrific.

Quick feet: Tom Rogic. Picture: SNS Group

Quick feet: Tom Rogic. Picture: SNS Group

The Australian is not the kind of flashy player you would associate with the No.10 position and he lacks the vision of some other players. What he does possess, however, are outrageous quick feet and close control, which make it just a nightmare for anyone to get the ball from him, even when he’s playing in a packed midfield area.

Dundee United 1-4 Celtic: Leigh Griffiths bags a double

Gavin Gunning is a weak link in the United defence

There’s a soft touch, there’s Kevin McKidd’s character in The Acid House, and then there’s Dundee United. The ease in which the hosts give away goals is incredible, but Gunning is usually a common denominator.

His slip for the first may have been unfortunate, but all game long his positioning and general play was erratic. He was caught up field at Celtic’s third, which ultimately killed the game, when there was no need to be. United had attacked through a quick ball forward before their opponents broke. It wasn’t a corner or a set-piece.

Even when he’s not doing anything wrong he can still negatively affect the team, as evidenced by the second goal where Ryan McGowan became too concerned with who Gunning was trying to mark that he let Jozo Simunovic have a free run at goal.

Commentators still bleat about bookings for shirt removal

Yes, it’s a dreadful rule. There’s little reasoning behind why a footballer feels the need to remove an item of clothing after scoring a goal – this writer was always more a kiss-the-badge kind of guy – but they should be allowed to do it. If someone crosses the line and puts on a political slogan or whatever, which is why the rules are in place, then hit them with a retrospective ban and fine them heavily. This will allow guys like Leigh Griffiths to have a ‘50’ on his shirt without incurring a yellow card.

However, these rules have been around for years and everyone knows they incur an automatic yellow card. By the nature of football, referees have to make so many split-second tough calls where they are asked to interpret events rather than just following black and white guidance. This one rule that’s pretty easy to implement. And yet, that’s not good enough for Chris Sutton, who feels Bobby Madden should have used some common sense because Griffiths was “excited”.

Is this the “new” Efe Ambrose?

The Nigerian defender claimed that this was a new beginning for him at Celtic and that he’d learned to cut out the mistakes by concentrating on the simple things.

Celtic fans, quite rightly, would have rolled their eyes at such promises. It’s the usual kind of thing you hear from footballers before they immediate fall back into bad habits.

It was, therefore, quite refreshing to see Ambrose put in a highly encouraging performance against United. He still looked shaky when passing the ball back to Gordon. This is hardly surprising.

New leaf or not, you can’t just erase history. But overall his defending was top notch as he showed great anticipation to always arrive at the right moment to snuff out potential attacks.

If Ambrose can stay mistake-free for Celtic then this should improve their back four. Because Ambrose playing at his best is a better defender than Dedryck Boyata.