Tam Courts’ side were ultimately blown away by Celtic. Another Thomas was the architect. Tom Rogic might have resided in Scotland long enough to be addressed as “Tam” but there are times when he posts a reminder of his more exotic origins.
The midfielder can be considered something of a luxury player but what a luxury. He drifted past the challenges of four United players before clipping a shot from just inside the area past Benji Siegrist after 19 minutes. David Turnbull added another before the interval after a sumptuous Callum McGregor pass and substitute Liam Scales tied things up near the end.
It seemed obligatory to note that there were more holes in the United defence than in the roof of the Jerry Kerr stand, which had been deemed out of bounds following the recent high winds. Few teams could have lived with Celtic in the mood they were in here.
Only poor finishing prevented the side racking up a cricket score in front of their Australian manager on the eve of the Ashes. Ange Posticoglou’s compatriot Rogic was at the heart of most of Celtic’s good play before he made way for James McCarthy with 20 minutes left.
No disrespect to the latter, who has enjoyed a fine career, but few players in the world can be expected to compensate for the loss of Rogic’s elan. He is often unplayable and added a goal, only his second of the season, to the mix here.
“When he gets the ball, put down your phones, stop eating and drinking, just watch – because something will happen,” commanded Posticoglou afterwards.
“It’s not just his technique. He’s a strong player, hard to knock off the ball. United have a strong team in the middle of the park, they’re physical and they shut teams down – and it’s not an easy pitch.”
The finish was appropriately languid for just after midday on a Sunday as was the ease with which he evaded a succession of home challenges.
Some reports faithfully recorded Cameron Carter-Vickers’ part in the goal as an “assist”. It was as much an assist as Brian McClair’s pass to David Beckham when the Manchester United player scored from his own half against Wimbledon in 1996.
The defender was indeed the last Celtic player to take a touch prior to Rogic taking over. Carter-Vickers funnelled the ball out wide before standing back to admire the Australian midfielder jinking past his markers.
It was a cold, crisp day by the Tay but Rogic was in the mood. He held off Louis Appere, danced between Adrian Sporle and Ian Harkes before side-stepping Charlie Mulgrew and finishing with an artful shot beyond Siegrist. The goal reflected an afternoon when United struggled to lay a punch on Celtic.
Indeed, the only time they did make an imprint it was on Turnbull’s shin. Substitute Calum Butcher had only been sent on minutes beforehand to add some ballast to the home midfield. He risked being responsible for giving his teammates an even steeper mountain to climb.
A poorly challenge on the near touchline on Turnbull saw him pick up his obligatory booking but it probably should have been a red card, something he collected on his last appearance here v Aberdeen. He didn’t reach half time on that occasion. Here he might well have left United one short for the majority of the second half having only been sent on for Appere after 50 minutes.
In truth, the game was already up for United, who now look to regroup before Livingston arrive at Tannadice on Saturday. Their productivity so far this season means they can afford afternoons such as these. It’s only the second time they have fallen to successive defeats under the rookie manager and they remain fourth in the league.
Indeed, after a win here against Rangers and bonus point at Parkhead earlier this season, this is the first time they have failed to be competitive against the Old Firm in this current campaign.
There’s no need to panic on a very significant weekend for the club. Jim McLean began his managerial career 50 years ago with a 3-2 defeat against Hearts at Tynecastle. Courts’ first foray into management at senior level has gone well so far and patience is the key. It took several years for McLean to really get into his stride.
Turnbull’s strike five minutes before half-time all but eliminated the chances of the hosts taking anything from the game. The midfielder clipped the ball over Siegrist before slamming home. Scales scored a third, his first for the club, with a deflected shot nine minutes from time after a cross from fellow substitute Liel Abada.
United opportunities were scarce. Joe Hart was again too casual dealing with a backpass but Appere was not able to capitalise. The ‘keeper did make a good save from Sporle in the second half.
Hart was otherwise more gainfully employed dealing with the latest attempts by Celtic fans to make a point about the club’s apparent steadfast intention to appoint Bernard Higgins, the current assistant chief constable of Police Scotland, as head of security.
Another trip to Dundee, another anti-Higgins protest. This one was not quite as disruptive as the tennis ball prank over the road at Dens Park last month. Just bits of paper bearing his image inside a red no-go zone which they then scrunched up and tossed into the goalmouth.
Hart, helped by teammates, dutifully cleared the area and then looked on for the most part as Celtic drew nearer leaders Rangers with one of their most dominant away performances of the season.