Former Celtic star McDonald is a big fan of Tannadice kids such as Jamie Robson, Matty Smith, Sam Stanton and Scott Fraser, who are battling to help Csaba Laszlo’s fourth-placed side finish the season with a flurry as they gear up for tonight’s tricky trip to face Challenge Cup winners Inverness in the Highlands.
McDonald, whose second-half equaliser earned the Tangerines a precious point in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Dunfermline, is vowing to lead by example during the run-in and knows their youngsters’ mettle is also set to be tested to the limit.
The 34-year-old former Aussie striker insists self-belief is the key for them to shine during the nine remaining games as they refuse to give up hope of catching second-top Livi over the coming weeks.
McDonald said: “The young players here are as good as anybody when they believe in themselves. That’s the big thing.
“I think that’s what we’ve lacked a bit in recent weeks. Slowly but surely, though, they will get there.
“We can definitely still get second place. There are so many games left still to be played.
“It might even go down to that last game with Livingston. If we can make it like that then it would be great.
“We just need to concentrate on the next one which is Inverness. It’s the old cliché but it’s true in this situation. The great thing is we get to go again on Tuesday. We’ve just got to go for it and put those wrongs of late right.
“We need to start getting maximum points and we must do it quickly – simple as that. We’ve still got a couple of games in hand but if we want to finish second then we have to be winning games. Livingston won again on Saturday but we can only concentrate on what we can do.
“This is another catch-up game up north and it would be massive to get three points up in Inverness.”
McDonald is being leaned upon to drive United’s promotion push and the ex-Middlesbrough and Motherwell man is up for the fight.
He said: “I relish that role. In difficult times, you’re always going to look to your leaders and things like this are not exactly new to me.
“It’s not that I enjoy it. Not winning games is the worst thing for me and you just have to ask my wife !
“Seriously, though, we know what we have to do and it’s up to us to really knuckle down and make the most of the remaining games.”
McDonald knows the United fans have suffered throughout this trying campaign but hopes to give those loyal followers heading for Inverness something to shout about.
He said: “You have to give our supporters full credit. They’ve stood by us. They’ve seen some maybe not great displays this season but they have been so loyal.
“Some of the football we played last Tuesday against Queen of the South was actually quite good.
“I’m sure they will give us great backing again in Inverness and it would be great to give them a positive result.”
Meanwhile, United boss Laszlo insists his troops can take heart from their comeback against Dunfermline. He said: “We can go to Inverness with confidence. I was proud of the boys the way they came back on Saturday and showed a lot of fighting spirit.
“We know Inverness will be tough because they came to Tannadice the other week and looked like a team who were further up the league than they are just now.
“And they will have taken confidence from winning the cup on Saturday, so we know it will be tough, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”