Bottom-of-the-table United, who trail nearest rivals Kilmarnock by eight points but have a game in hand, go into tonight’s clash with Aberdeen with some fresh hope of staying up following consecutive league wins over Hearts and Ross County.
They remain favourites to go down but that isn’t stopping Paatelainen’s players from giving their all to try and avert the dreaded drop and, while he acknowledges Aberdeen are under pressure to maintain their title challenge with Celtic, the Finn believes his own troops are under the most severe strain of all.
Paatelainen said: “Is it a good time to play Aberdeen when all the pressure is on them? Ask me after the game.
“When they beat us 2-0 at Pittodrie they were the better team and deserved the victory.
“But if we do what we know we can do we can give them a much harder game this time.
“They have fallen a little bit behind Celtic and they are eager to get three points.
“I don’t know how much pressure they feel. But our need to win is greater than theirs, absolutely.
“The knife is on our throat. We want to make sure we respond to that. So far we have responded well to that pressure. Many teams would have crumbled but we have shown mental toughness.
“We have shown we can handle the pressure. When you look at the matches, since November onwards our game hasn’t been bad. We’ve played reasonably well. Our results at the end of the year and turn of the year were not good but we’ve improved.”
Paatelainen is without injured defender Callum Morris tonight, while Frenchman Guy Demel is a doubt.