JACKIE McNAMARA “fully supported” Dundee United’s decision to sell Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong to League Cup final opponents Celtic, according to a statement from the Dundee United board.

The departure of two of United’s best players left many fans in despair two days after the club’s 2-1 League Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen to book a Final spot against McNamara’s former club at Hampden on March 15.

The United board issued a statement on the club’s official website to enable fans to have “a complete understanding of the club’s current position” while highlighting McNamara’s backing.

The statement read: “Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong left for Celtic FC and while we understand the initial negative response in some quarters to their departure from Dundee United, it is very important to keep this in context.

“Firstly, and most importantly, it is the board’s duty to balance the short, medium and long-term interests of the club at all times.

“While being an emotional wrench for the club and the players, the transfer of Gary and Stuart was reluctantly, albeit undoubtedly, the right thing to do in the circumstances.

“Those circumstances, for absolute clarity, are that both Gary and Stuart made it clear to management that they wanted to leave Dundee United to further their careers elsewhere.

“Gary had signed a pre-contract agreement with Celtic.

“The board had no desire to sell the players. However, when it was obvious that they both viewed their futures elsewhere it is the board’s responsibility to do the right thing for the club.

“That then meant ensuring that the club realised optimum financial value for the players – one of whom had only 17 weeks left on his contract.

“It should also be appreciated that, in reality, players decide where they will play and not their current clubs. Dundee United has no control over their destination club.

“On this occasion the lure of European football and increased personal financial reward and security are major draws to young players. Both players ultimately go with our best wishes.

“Such deals are negotiated at all times in the longer term interests of the club.

“This is also a very important point as the club remains focused off-field on being debt free.

“The transfer fees received will have the incidental effect of assisting the club to become completely debt free ahead of schedule.

“On-field, we are still challenging on three fronts and have no intention of being diverted from our short-term aims for this season.

“We can say that safe in the knowledge that the manager himself is happy with the result of this transfer window and fully supported the board’s actions.”

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