THE last time Celtic played at Tannadice was on September 22 last year and new £5million striker Albian Ajeti came off the substitutes’ bench to score the only goal late on.
Just over five months later, the Swiss international has claimed only five more strikes in what has been a less-than-convincing debut campaign for the Parkhead side.
Vaslis Barkas, who arrived on a £4.5million switch from AEK Athens around the same time, was in goal and much was anticipated from the Greek star. The keeper hasn’t even figured on the substitutes’ bench for the past two games against Ross County and Aberdeen and his Hoops future is shrouded in mystery.
Scott Bain has been the man in charge of the gloves and Conor Hazard, the Scottish Cup Final hero who agreed a two-year extension in midweek, has been on stand-by duty.
Jeremie Frimpong was at right-back and he moved in a £11.5million deal to Bayer Leverkusen during the January transfer window while Hatem Abd Elhamed, an unused sub on Tayside, also returned to Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
SWISS HIT…Albian Ajeti is about to be congratulated by Kristoffer Ajer after his points-clincher at Tannadice.
Kristoffer Ajer came off the bench to replace Olivier Ntcham who moved on loan to Marseille on deadline day.
James Forrest, who replaced Mohamed Elyounoussi just after the hour mark, was injured in the Euro tie in Rija a month later and hasn’t figured since.
In the stand that afternoon was chief executive Peter Lawwell who will retire after 18 years from the post in June. So, quite a few things have changed since that previous visit to Tayside.
Oh, and Neil Lennon was the manager while John Kennedy was his No.2. The deputy is now the interim gaffer after the departure of the Irishman last week.
Thankfully, some things have remained constant and one of them is Callum McGregor who was in midfield in the 1-0 triumph and is likely to be in the same role during Sunday’s High Noon showdown with United.
The quest for a historic tenth successive title has come off the tracks in inexplicable fashion which has proved costly for some individuals. A summer of upheaval is also around the corner.
McGregor, speaking to The Celtic View, said: “We’re playing for pride. At Celtic, you win every game and that’s what we have to get back to. We have to get back to that ruthless mentality where we’re fully prepared, understanding our roles within the team and putting that all together.
ON THE RUN…Callum McGregor races beyond Ross County’s Blair Spittal.
“We’re judged on results. This period between now and the end of the season is about preparing for the start of next season.
“We have a good basis here over the next eight weeks to really put our foot to the floor and continue to get better.
”We’re expecting a really tough game. The two games against United have been tough, so we’ll need to be at our best to get something.
“The pitch is a little bit tighter and they pressed us very well in the first game there and we had to wait until late on to get the goal from Albian, so we expect more of the same.
“We have to be bang at it to get a good result.”
Ismaila Soro scored his first goal for the club when he walloped in the opener in the December 30 clash with Micky Mellon’s side. David Turnbull and Odsonne Edouard, with only his seventh league goal of the campaign, also got on the scoresheet.
Typifying Celtic’s luck in a wretched season, Christopher Jullien, who had just returned after a back injury, clattered into a post – and could be out until October with a knee problem.
Still, three points are there to be won on Sunday and, as vice-captain McGregor insists, the team are playing for pride.