Csaba Laszlo last night insisted his Dundee United future doesn’t depend on tonight’s crunch play-off clash with Dunfermline – and still expects to be at the helm even if they miss out on their promotion dream.
The Tangerines face a huge 90 minutes in their quest to seal a top-flight return as they gear up to face Allan Johnston’s Pars in their quarter-final second-leg tie following Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with the ten-man Fifers at East End Park.
Laszlo took over from departed Ray McKinnon back in November but United soon saw their ailing title bid go up in smoke as St Mirren romped to the Championship while the Taysiders finished third behind runners-up Livingston.
Now Laszlo’s hopefuls have the chance to save their season by overcoming the Pars and setting up a semi-final with Livi next week, but the 54-year-old Hungarian is adamant his own position won’t be decided by the outcome.
Laszlo said: “Definitely I would expect to stay. I think this is a big club and I am fully committed. THat is between me and the chairman what we have talked about. It’s something I can’t give an answer on.
“There’s been a lot of turbulence in the club within the past year. There’s no doubt about it.
“The chairman stepped down and now we have a new one. We also have a lot of new ideas to go forward in one direction.
“Everybody knows we failed to be champions but now we have to try to reach our target through the play-offs. It’s as simple as that and we have to go for it.”
Laszlo insisted Dunfermline are now the favourites in the wake of Tuesday’s stalemate in Fife but that hasn’t dampened his belief in his own players to do the business this time.
He added: “I don’t always think about who is the favourite.
“I suspect both teams will go out with the same thoughts, thinking they can progress to the semi-final.
“Look, I’m always positive by nature going into any game, more so than confident I would say.
“I always have faith in my players and I hope my team is also of a positive mindset.”
Midfielder Scott Fraser reckons the Tannadice club’s big-time players can see them through to the next stages.
Fraser said: “We’ve got a lot of experienced boys like Scott McDonald, Bilel Mohsni and Willo Flood and they’re all a big help.
“We do have a few boys who were in the play-offs last year with us or played in them for other teams in the past and that helps. We know what to expect and how to handle it.
“Last year at this stage we went down to Morton and got a good result, then came back to Tannadice and won well and we’ll be looking to do the same again on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Callum Morris insists Dunfermline can see right through Csaba Laszlo’s mind games and reckons all the pressure is firmly on Dundee United tonight.
Morris spent two years at Tannadice after leaving his first spell with Dunfermline in 2014 and knows how much his old side need to go back up to the Premiership this season.
The Pars skipper is also fully aware of how desperate the United fans will be to see their team progress to a semi-final clash with Livingston, and reckons Laszlo’s bid to label the Fifers as favourites is a thinly-veiled attempt to ease the pressure on his players.
Morris said: “It’s a poor attempt at reverse psychology that, isn’t it? Let’s be serious. But we don’t worry about that kind of thing.
“Ten weeks ago, we had to dig ourselves out of a hole and roll our sleeves up and go on this run we’re on. We knew if we got where we are now that would stand us in good stead, that we’d be in good form and winning games and putting in good performances.
“So, we won’t worry about that at all. We’ll go up there and I believe that if we do what we’re capable of then we’ll do the job.”
With Tuesday’s stalemate providing both sides with a clean slate going into tonight’s rematch, there will be no need for either to protect a lead or chase a comeback.
Morris believes that makes the second leg an exciting prospect. He added: “If you look at Liverpool against Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday night, going into the game three goals ahead, I think it can change the mentality a bit.
“When you go into the first leg, knowing that it’s over two legs, you have to manage it a little differently. But now it’s just a cup final, it’s one game and winner takes all. It gives you licence to really give it everything.
“It’s just 90 minutes of pure football and whoever scores the most goals wins the tie, and hopefully that will be us.”
Although they did not earn the lead at East End Park which they wanted to take to Tayside, Dunfermline will take heart from surviving for almost the whole of the second half with only ten men after Lee Ashcroft’s controversial red card.
Ashcroft is free to play after the Pars appealed referee Bobby Madden’s decision and Morris sees plenty of reason for optimism, despite a winless record against United dating back to August 2011.
He commented: “We’re full of confidence going into the game. We know what we need to do and what we’re capable of doing, so we’ll go up there and give it our all.
“People say we haven’t beaten them but the flip side of that is there’s no better time to beat them.”