Csaba Laszlo last night challenged his players to write history – or else prepare to be shipped out of Tannadice in the summer.
The Dundee United manager spoke out on the eve of tonight’s crunch Premiership play-off semi-final second-leg clash with Livingston having gone down 3-2 in Monday night’s first leg.
The Tangerines face a serious fight to make it through to next week’s play-off final in their quest to seal a top-flight return following a two-year absence from the Premiership, and their fired-up Hungarian boss has told his players it is all down to them if they want to have a future at the club.
Laszlo said: “This is a unique chance. It’s not about tactics or running around. It’s so much more important because this is just about your life.
“They have a unique chance to be part of history. They can write the history books by going all the way, or if you fail completely then it wouldn’t be so nice.
“That is my message, to be honest.
“Do you want to be part of the future? If not, then we have to choose someone else who wants to be with us and move forward.
“It’s like this because we have a responsibility towards the fans and the club.
“I am saying to them simply that it’s in your hands to do it. Either you can succeed or move out.
“This must be the target to get to the Scottish Premiership and to have players who want to be part of the future here.
“If you want to be part of Dundee United’s future do something – if not then move out.
“I need people who really want to achieve something. In this situation, you need warriors and not always fantastic football players to get out of the Championship, which is such a competitive league.”
United are still hurting from Monday night’s late collapse when they threw away a 2-1 lead to give Davie Hopkin’s men the advantage going into tonight’s showdown.
Laszlo, who has been assured by chairman Mike Martin he will still be at the helm next season even if they don’t clinch promotion, has ordered his men to up their game in their hour of need. He said: “It was very painful the other night but now we have the second leg to look forward to.
“We definitely have to score two goals more than Livingston to get to the next stage.
“It will be very difficult as Livingston can play on the counter-attack. For us, if we don’t use our heads better than we did on Monday and aren’t clever, it will be a hard evening for sure. I have asked the players to be more clinical and score more goals – and for the defence to not make individual mistakes like they did in the first leg.”
Thomas Mikkelsen, who was on target on Monday, said: “I still think we are a better team than Livingston which we showed on Monday night. For me, I think they have had the luck. It was such a big disappointment when we threw everything away late on with two late goals. It was a big hit. We have picked ourselves up though and will be ready. I am still confident we can beat them.”
Skipper Willo Flood is suspended after his sending-off in the dying minutes of Monday’s defeat, but defender Bilel Mohsni has shaken off a groin injury to be fit, although Mark Durnan is a doubt with flu.
Livingston captain Craig Halkett insists being team-mates on the pitch and friends off it is a huge factor in the Lions’ push for promotion. The West Lothian side have exceeded all expectations after starting the campaign with hopes of simply consolidating their position in the second tier following last season’s League 1 title success.
Former Rangers trainee Halkett said: “We’re a close-knit group and I’ve not been in a changing room like it. There’s no cliques and everyone is close.
“We all get on very well and I think that carries on to the pitch. You can see that in a lot of our performances this season when we’ve gone all the way and got late goals to get us a point or three.
“It’s definitely a close bunch of boys. We socialise off the park as well. We’ve had a few golf days and things like that.
“It’s a great mix the manager’s got. We’ve a core of good young players who want to go far and do good things in the game, and he also has experienced guys who have been there and done it. That mix together works really well.”
After taking an early lead at Tannadice through Rafa De Vita, United struck back with goals by Mikkelsen and Anthony Ralston.
But Josh Mullin and Scott Pittman efforts turned the tie in the visitors’ favour and Halkett admits that performance sums up the Lions.
He added: “I think that win just encapsulates what we’re all about.
“The manager got the message across at half-time that if the match stayed the way it did at 2-1 he would have been delighted, but as the match went on we grew into it and we kept pushing.
“To get the two goals in the second half speaks volumes about the team we’ve got and everyone was delighted.”
Halkett, who moved to Livingston from Ibrox in January 2016, says former Scotland midfielder Hopkin also deserves great credit for leading the team to the play-offs, even though he is working with one of the smallest budgets in the league.
He added: “The gaffer has done some job and I think it probably suits him that people don’t talk about him much. He’s going about his business.
“But I think he deserves a lot of credit. I’ve loved working with him; he’s given me my chance so I’ve got a lot to repay him for.
“He also had confidence in me to give me the armband and I would like to think I’ve repaid him.”