St Johnstone 0 - 0 Dundee United: John Rankin wants to keep star duo

JOHN Rankin hopes Dundee United can give in-demand team-mates Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay-Steven a reason to stay at the club for the long term after Huddersfield’s £1.25 million bid for the pair was rejected.

The Championship side’s offer on Friday was described as “an absolute joke” by United manager Peter Houston in the wake of yesterday’s goal-less draw with St Johnstone. And Rankin also believes the two players, who have been tipped as future Scotland internationals by Houston, are worth a lot more than the price put on their heads by Huddersfield. However, Rankin knows that speculation about the pair’s future is likely to resume again in January, and he is hoping that, before then, United can stay near the top of the SPL table to give them a fighting chance of retaining the youngsters – and defender Gavin Gunning – when the transfer window opens again. He said: “It’s great for the club to keep hold of those guys until January. But now the boys just need to get their heads together. Some will be disappointed and some will be buzzing to still be here, because it’s a great bunch of boys.

“But, hopefully, we can push on between now and January to give them something to want to stay for. I’m not the money man at the club, but I certainly think from playing alongside the two of them that they are worth a lot more than that.”

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United missed the cutting edge of Mackay-Steven in a game of few chances against St Johnstone, with Houston confirming afterwards that the 22-year-old would be out for six weeks 
following knee surgery.

Saints, who signed former Rangers and Cardiff striker Steven MacLean on Saturday, remain without a victory this season in a winless run that stretches back 14 competitive matches. One of the bright spots on Saturday was the first-half display of on-loan Aberdeen winger Peter Pawlett. The 21-year-old, who was subbed after the break, is hopeful success in Perth can boost his opportunities with the Dons on his return to Pittodrie in January.

The Scotland under-21 cap said: “I’ve still got two years on my contract at Aberdeen. I want to play there regularly, that’s my aim. Hopefully with more and more games I’ll be able to last the full 90 minutes.”