Dundee Utd/Celtic: Battle Of The Talented Managers


So the Scottish League Cup final is upon us. Fans of both Dundee United and Celtic will descend on Hampden today with dreams of lifting the cup filling their thoughts.

It will be up to managers Jackie McNamara (Dundee Utd) and Ronny Deila (Celtic) to mastermind the others downfall and see their club captains march up the Hampden stairs and lift the trophy in Glasgow’s southside.

I really like both gaffers and can’t wait to see their two teams colliding and battling it out.

Before Ronny got the Celtic job, I tipped Jackie for it and still think he has it in him to take that role on one day. He’s a young boss that likes to see his teams play attractive football.

The forty-one year old did a fine job at Partick Thistle, he had them leading in Scotland’s second tier before walking out and joining United in early 2013.

Since his arrival at Tannadice, the team have never looked back. Jackie continued to keep the team in the ‘Top Six’. This final appearance will be the clubs second in two seasons.

Now what’s impressive about that stat is that Jackie has kept that consistency even after losing top stars like Johnny Russell, Jon Daly, Andrew Robertson, Ryan Gauld, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven. the latter two left Tannadice for today’s opposition (But are cup-tied).

McNamara likes to see his team win the ball in midfield or defensive areas and counter-attack, with pace and directness. That can catch Celtic out as even their defensive midfield men like to bomb forward at times and leave space in behind. It’s also an ideal tactic when you are up against a 4-2-3-1 that Deila likes to employ on big occasions (incidentally its a formation McNamara is fond of too).

The size of the Hampden pitch could suit both teams as they like playing good football and getting the ball into wide areas.

After the fall-out from last week’s 1-1 draw between the two sides in the Scottish Cup, this final could be a fiery affair. But I’d imagine that both bosses will look to their experienced players to show calm, level heads. Neither will want to see their sides reduced to ten men.

McNamara will have to alter things, with top goalscorer Nadir Ciftci out through suspension. That could see new recruit Henri Anier start up top with Ryan Dow playing in and around the Estonian forward.

Another big plus in terms of Jackie McNamara’s management style is that he’s not scared to put in the kids. For too long, Scottish football suffered as managers went with too many experienced pros and foreign cast-offs. Well McNamara is bold enough to give youth its chance.

In the opposite dugout, Ronny Deila needed to convince certain parts of the Celtic fanbase that he was right for the ‘Hoops’ hotseat but now you’ll find it hard to find a doubter.

It’s always tough coming in and taking over from a club legend like Neil Lennon, the fans and the players sometimes struggle to adapt. But now Ronny has a settled system its all things go at Parkhead.

The Norwegian came in and wanted his players to be fitter and more dedicated. After a tough start, he seems to have got his wish and Celtic have gone from strength to strength. The ultimate goal, claiming the treble (something Lennon couldn’t do), is still in the clubs sights.

Another boss who likes to see an attacking style, the thirty-nine year old also likes to see his team press the opponents all over the park.

The fact that he has Virgil van Dijk is a major plus as he is Celtic’s most capable defender. Having the Dutchman in the team makes Celtic a tougher proposition to break down! Plus he’s the best and building from the back.

Deila has also moved Stefan Johansen further forward and his fellow Norwegian has flourished. So much so that Johansen could be one of the nominees for Scottish player of the year this season. In his new role, Johansen dictates play and helps control the speed of attacks. The technically gifted midfielder is always keen to look up and play lovely passes forward.

Deila’s Celtic often get the lions share of possession during games and they have developed a team with greater energy, probably down to Ronny’s training methods and desire for ’24-hour athletes’.

Today’s encounter is going to be an intriguing one. Both managers are talented and will be desperate to clinch the first piece of silverware this season. The tie should also see a few goals as both teams like to get forward and attack each other.

In the previous three meetings each side has picked up a win, draw and a defeat. So something has to give today!

Really it doesn’t matter to me who wins, I am just excited that two good young managers will be prowling the touchlines hoping that their players win the cup by playing the game in the right spirit.

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