22 August 2020 18:39
Dundee United midfielder Calum Butcher knows what it takes to beat Celtic as he relishes meeting up again with the Premiership champions. When life got tough in the Championship, Butcher would think about the big games that lay ahead if they could only win promotion. Today will see one of those gold standard fixtures return to Tannadice. The United versus Celtic clash is, historically, one of the greatest in Scottish football and Butcher has experienced it as a winner. The Englishman is the sole survivor from the last time the Tangerines beat the Hoops – a 2-1 victory at Tannadice on December 21, 2014.
Goals from Nadir Ciftci and Stuart Armstrong had the home team in command that day, with Leigh Griffiths managing a late consolation for the visitors. The only Celtic player from six years ago certain to start this evening is skipper Scott Brown and he and Butcher are likely to go toe to toe in the centre of the park. The United midfielder recalled: "That was a good day for us. "Stuart and Nadir scored and the atmosphere from the fans was superb. "I wasn't a senior player at the time so, coming into it now, I am looking forward to that challenge of going up against someone like Scott Brown. "He is a top player and you want to test yourself against the best players in the league. "That is what I'm looking forward to and we are all looking forward to this one. "The young lads don't know what it is like going into these games and it will be good for them because they will be going in pretty fearless. "They will get the chance to test themselves against top players." Had fans been allowed in this evening, the stadium would have been filled to capacity and the atmosphere electric, just as it was in 2014. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, that will have to wait until after September 14 at least but the magnitude of this occasion has still not been lost on Butcher. Indeed, he has been counting the days. He said: "Celtic will be very difficult, as they always are, but we are up for the challenge because these are the types of games we have wanted to play in for the last few seasons. "We wanted to get promoted in order to play in these big games. "With the lockdown it was difficult to have that moment to celebrate with the fans that we all wanted and yearned for. "We are disappointed not to have fans in the stadium but it will still be a great challenge and we are definitely up for it. "Now we have to show every team respect but we also have to go out there with no fear and just try and continue what we've been doing. "We have come up with a winning mentality not just last year but the year before. "We are used to winning games and that is showing in our results. "We know we are going to be disappointed when we lose games and that is the right way to attack things." As well as United's young players playing without fear, Butcher thinks manager Micky Mellon will not be overawed by the occasion either. Instead, he expects Mellon to show confidence in his team and have a go at the champions. Butcher said: "We have started the season pretty well and have probably been disappointed with the results against St Johnstone (draw) and Hibs (defeat). "We probably felt we could have taken something from Hibs and we have had two winning away performances (at Motherwell then Ross County). "We are happy with the way things have gone and we just want to build on that. "Since the gaffer came in he has put that stamp down of trying to win every game. "He doesn't want to sit off teams. He wants to press high up the pitch. He wants us to get after teams. "That takes a lot of hard work and is why we have come back so fit. "Our fitness has improved and is definitely right up there now. "I can't see that changing this weekend and the boys have been thriving with that approach. "In midfield, with Ian Harkes and Peter Pawlett in front of me, they have been able to get further forward. "Pete scored last Saturday and Ian has done really well. Ian has come back really fit and he is thriving in that role where he can get higher up the pitch and he has that support to release himself and get himself into the box." United's decent start to the campaign has been all the more laudable considering the selection challenges Mellon has faced. He was without injured quintet Lawrence Shankland, Jamie Robson, Liam Smith, Ryan Edwards and Paul McMullan up at Dingwall. Shankland, with speculation linking him with a potential £2.5 million move to French club Guingamp, has an ankle injury and remains a doubt. Edwards' hamstring also places a question mark over his involvement but Mellon is more optimistic about the other three.