The Edinburgh club finished a disappointing 11th in the SPL last season while United enjoyed a fourth-place finish which was rewarded with European football for this campaign.
Hanlon, 22, reckons the match in Dundee could be tricky but is also hopeful that United’s players suffer from weariness following their hard-fought 2-2 draw against Dynamo Moscow on Thursday night.
He said: “It is always a tough game up at Tannadice but obviously with it being the first game of the season everyone is looking forward to it – we are desperate to get off to a good start.
“If we can get the three points or even a point at Dundee United we will look upon that as a decent result and I’m looking forward to going up there and putting in a good performance.
“Maybe they will have a bit of tiredness in their legs from last night because it was a big game for them but they are 90 minutes ahead of us so either way we need to go up there and put in a performance for the fans coming with us.”
The former Scotland Under-21 international is looking to continue to play a key role in Pat Fenlon’s side and is targeting an improvement on last season’s lowly finish.
“I only missed two games last year so hopefully I can stay in the team every week and from a team point of view obviously get further up the table,” he said.
“It was unacceptable that a club this size was down the bottom last year and we need to improve on that.
“The main thing for the club at this stage is to improve on last year, we can’t be in a relegation battle at the end of the season so if we can get off to a good start we can push for the top six and that is something I’d be delighted with.”
Financial constraints have meant Fenlon has been unable to replace all of the players who left Easter Road at the end of last season but Hanlon believes the current squad have enough about them to challenge higher up the table.
“I think it is going to be a tighter-knit squad this year because we haven’t got as many players,” he said.
“The gaffer has added players with good quality so, like I said, hopefully we can get off to a good start and move on from there.”
United, meanwhile, go into tomorrow’s Tannadice match still smarting from Dynamo Moscow’s late suckerpunch on Thursday evening. Peter Houston’s men were denied a famous win by a deflected injury-time strike from 25 yards after Keith Watson put them ahead for the second time in the first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round.
Although United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak made several excellent saves, United also created a number of chances after Willo Flood’s 37th-minute opener. Houston said afterwards that he believes his players can cause Moscow problems by going on the attack in next week’s second-leg clash in Russia. And United winger Gary Mackay-Steven shares that belief.
Mackay-Steven said: “All the boys are absolutely gutted with that killer punch at the end. I thought we played well and it’s a sickener that the boy cut in and it took a deflection and it landed in the top corner.
“We’ll dust ourselves down and we’re quietly confident going over there that we can get a result. The team is really confident and all the boys that have come in have done well. All the boys on the bench are keeping the ones that are starting on their toes.”
Houston compared Mackay-Steven favourably with Dynamo’s £15 million winger Balazs Dzsudzsak after a second-half performance that left Australia right-back Luke Wilkshire struggling. However, the Scotland Under-21 international shrugged off compliments about his own performance.
“It was pleasing but I felt the whole team did really well,” he said.
“We were solid at the back and we created chances. The crowd were great, they really helped us. It was a sickener at the end but we’ll go over there and give it a go.
“We’re always at our most dangerous when we attack teams. I fully believe we’ll go over there and attack and create chances because that suits our style of play.”