Since taking the reins at Tannadice in October, Paatelainen has struggled to improve United’s fortunes. He has recorded just eight victories and suffered 15 defeats in his 27 matches in charge so far.
United are facing the prospect of relegation from the top flight of Scottish football for the first time since 1995, currently eight points adrift at the foot of the Premiership with just five matches of the campaign remaining.
Despite that desperate situation, Paatelainen anticipates passionate support from the club’s fans in this afternoon’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs. “I expect they will be there in numbers again because they have been magnificent in what has been a horrendous season,” said the United manager.
“Is it up to the players to give them something back? Absolutely. Hopefully, sooner rather than later on Saturday. Like in any game, you want to start well and give the fans cause for optimism.
“I’m not worried about there being any lack of enthusiasm from our fans because they have been excellent. Wherever we’ve gone recently, they’ve still been loud. The backing this season has been brilliant.
“A few weeks ago at Firhill, they filled that main stand and were so loud and vocal. Last weekend at Tannadice against Inverness, there was a big home support again but unfortunately we didn’t play well and we didn’t repay them for that support. So my message is to please please keep supporting us because it is very important. It’s important for the players out there in terms of confidence. They hear that. They feel the atmosphere and think ‘there’s our troops’.
“How our players see this semi-final and the possibility of winning a trophy is what counts. Do they see it as a burden or a carrot? Do they go for it and grasp that opportunity? I want players at Hampden who are not fazed by the occasion. I want them to take the opportunity and reach the final.”