Billy Dodds: Magic Mikkelsen, Dundee United play-off hopes & more

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Things are looking good at Tannadice right now, with Dundee United having grabbed a vital first-leg advantage in their play-off tussle with Greenock Morton.

Promotion is a tall order this season – though, with the help of a certain Danish hitman, it’s certainly not impossible.

Here are my thoughts on all things Tangerines right now…

Gutsy Cappielow triumph a huge positive

I didn’t actually think Dundee United were at their best at Cappielow. Morton more than played their part in the game, and dominated much of the first half. So I think they were a little unlucky to lose 2-1.

But it’s a great sign when you can dig out results in high-pressure games like this, even when you’re not playing particularly well. And the Tangerines have one foot in the play-off Semi-Final after that result.

It’s a really difficult task to get from the position they’re in to facing the Premiership side. We were in that situation at Queen of the South, when I was assistant manager there in 2014, and eventually, it caught up with us.

So they’ve made a great start, but Ray McKinnon needs to use his squad wisely, because they could potentially play six games in a pretty short space of time.

Great Dane could be the difference

It took Thomas Mikkelsen a little time to find his feet in the Championship after arriving from Denmark in January, but he’s really impressed me of late.

He’s playing with so much confidence right now, and he’s managed six goals and two assists in the last nine games, which is a fantastic record.

I personally think that if United are to upset the odds and make it up this season, he’ll probably be the man to make the difference.

Thomas has turned out to be a real find – and he’s also a really powerful player, which is a huge asset in these ties, where you’re playing twice in quick succession, and the opposition – and players around you – can suffer with a bit of fatigue.

Danish Delight: Mikkelsen has hit top form recently

Danish Delight: Mikkelsen has hit top form recently

 

McKinnon has proved smart appointment

Ray McKinnon has done well since coming in, and he’s stabilised a club who were lacking something of an identity and a direction last season. We were teammates at Aberdeen for a year [1994-95], and it’s great to see him moving up the ladder in Scottish football.

He started out at Lochee United, a junior team in Dundee, and he’s gradually gone on to bigger clubs each time – Brechin City, then Raith Rovers, and now he’s at Tannadice.

It’s been a tough division this year, with Hibernian being so strong. I think Ray will be disappointed they couldn’t pip Falkirk to second spot, and that’s largely due to a real blip from late February to mid-March.

I think it was a good call from the club to get a manager who knows this level – which Ray did from his time in Kirkcaldy as a gaffer, as well as in his playing days. I know how tough a division it is, and it took the likes of Hibs and Rangers multiple seasons to get promoted.

So far so good: Ray McKinnon has brought stability to Tannadice

So far so good: Ray McKinnon has brought stability to Tannadice

 

If not this year, it’ll be next…

I’ll be honest, I would be surprised if Dundee United make it up. I think it’s possible, but it’s such a tough task to overcome three successive sides, when you’re playing that many fixtures in a short space of time.

Falkirk are also a very good side at this level, and they obviously have experience of the play-offs, having been involved multiple times over the past few years. I’d like to see them prove me wrong, but if push comes to shove, I think winning promotion is likely to be just a bridge too far at Tannadice this season.

However, I think if they don’t go up this time, I’d fancy them to win the league next season. They’ll have the experience of a year in the Championship, Hibs will be out of the way, and if they can keep up their current level of performance, United definitely have enough to top the table in 2017-18.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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