Minutes after kick-off a persistent drone over Tannadice suggested something was in the air.
In the days when it seemed as if Celtic’s dominance of the Scottish game might never end, Parkhead supporters mocked their bitter rivals every time they said Rangers were coming.
This was the day when the mocking stopped. The day when the down-sizing and complacency and self-defeating obsession with ten-in-a-row finally ground to a halt and the chickens came home to roost.
A message from Rangers fans showing Celtic that they are one point away from their 55th title
Celtic players crestfallen at the end as their dream of a tenth consecutive title vanished
This was the day that the mocking by Parkhead supporters of their bitter city rivals stopped
Diego Laxalt (right) has a shot for Celtic, who created several decent chances in the first half
Dundee United (4-1-2-1-2): Siegrist; Smith, Edwards, Reynolds, Robson; Butcher; Fuchs, Harkes (Chalmers 78); Clark (Pawlett 62); Shankland, McNulty (Appere 69)
Subs not used: Sporle, Connolly, Hoti, Mehmet, Bolton, Nielson
Booked: Smith, Shankland, Harkes, McNulty
Manager: Micky Mellon
Celtic (4-3-1-2): Bain; Kenny, Welsh, Ajer, Laxalt; Turnbull (Rogic 62), Brown (Forrest 78), Christie; McGregor; Elyounoussi (Griffiths 83), Edouard
Subs not used: Barkas, Duffy, Ajeti, Klimala, Soro, Montgomery
Booked: Elyounoussi, Kenny
Manager: John Kennedy (caretaker)
Referee: Kevin Clancy
Shortly after kick-off a small bi-plane hired by Rangers fans flew over Tannadice trailing a banner reading; ‘can you see us now?’ Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot. The mocking have become the mocked.
Rangers are worthy champions and Celtic can have no complaints. To delay the coronation until next weekend’s Old Firm game at Parkhead John Kennedy’s side had to win here. Despite 27 attempts on goal and 12 efforts on target they couldn’t score for love or money.
On his 100th appearance for Dundee United keeper Benjamin Siegrist enhanced his team’s hopes of a top six finish with a string of fine saves. Yet here, as over the season as a whole, Celtic were architects of their own downfall. Beaten down by their own inability to score they finished the game a ragged and shapeless team.
When the final whistle blew after five minutes of added on time Steven Gerrard’s team were champions of Scotland for the first time in a decade. And Celtic were left, once more, wishing a dismal season would end as soon as humanly possible.
There’s more embarassment to come yet, of course. As part of the nonsense which surrounds these two clubs Celtic will face calls to grant the new champions a guard of honour at Parkhead next weekend. The precedent set when Rangers declined to do likewise two years ago there’s more chance of a Brendan Rodgers return to Parkhead this summer.
At the very least Celtic should have rendered the issue redundant – and prolonged the Rangers wait – by winning here. They had chance after chance and, through a combination of dogged United defending, decent goalkeeping and awful finishing possession of almost 70 per cent came to nothing.
Hopes of a Neil Lennon departure sparking a bounce of sorts looked more likely than not in the first half.
Celtic dominated possession and had many sights of goal but could not find a way through
Celtic’s best chance of the first half fell to Laxalt but the wing-back didn’t make the most of it
They stretched their opponents from side to side, probing for the opening goal as they rattled in 18 attempts on goal. While the pattern continued in the second half; the scoreline didn’t.
Credit must go to Siegrist after the keeper repelled the visitors repeatedly. He parried a thudding Diego Laxalt volley in the early stages, pushed an Odsonne Edouard angled strike over the bar seconds after Ian Harkes finally tested Celtic’s Scott Bain at the other end. Later in the half he dived low to his right to tip a netbound David Turnbull shot from 20 yards round the post.
Celtic’s movement and passing was relentless. At times it was also over-elaborate, more focussed on scoring the perfect goal than scoring any goal at all.
Laxalt blew a glorious chance ten minutes before half-time. Lovely play from Edouard provided the chance for Moi Elyounoussi to lay off to the South American left back as he surged into acres of space. With time to pick his spot he somehow managed to miss the target. It was a bad miss.
Stephen Welsh (centre) powers a second-half header on goal but straight at the goal-keeper
The game was interrupted in the second half as flares were thrown over a wall onto the pitch
Dundee United couldn’t be accused of sitting in or lacking ambition. Strikers Lawrence Shankland, Nicky Clark and Marc McNulty in the starting line up was a recognition of Celtic’s achilles heel in defence. From time to time the home team even put it to the test, McNulty wasting their best chance of the half when he dragged a right foot shot across the face of goal from an acute angle.
Celtic started the second half in a similar vein to the first. Alas for the visitors, so did United’s keeper Siegrist. Watched by Celtic a few times this season the keeper seemed hellbent on finally winning his big Parkhead move.
Stephen Welsh did well to fight his way onto the end of a David Turnbull corner five minutes after the restart, directing a downward header at goal for the keeper to block with his legs on the line. Elynounoussi had a second stab and again Celtic were denied.
When Siegrist denied Ryan Christie moments later it began to feel like one man against the world. Yet Celtic’s finishing was, to be blunt, dismal. An inability to put the ball either side of the keeper found the Parkhead entering the final half hour of the game in a state of growing exasperation.
Dundee United goal-keeper Benjamin Siegrist made his 100th appearance for the Tangerines
Despite Celtic’s dominance, Dundee United dug their heels in and were resolute in defence
It took the home side over 20 minutes to cross the halfway line. When they did Marc McNulty’s low curling shot from 20 yards forced Bain to scramble low to his left to save first with his fingers and then with his face. The keeper’s exertions ended in a bust nose.
United were not just hanging on. They were well and truly in the game. Like here Celtic had dominated away from home against Ross County and finished up losing to one chance.
Chasing a goal the persistence with winger Elynoussi as a striker began to look costly when the Norwegian blew a glorious chance to head in a Christie cross from 12 yards out.
As Celtic’s desperation grew they became ragged. James Forrest made his first appearance in five months after ankle surgery as a late sub, but lacked natural sharpness.
Dundee United looking as likely to score as the deposed champions as the game stretched, Yet Leigh Griffiths had the final opportunity in injury time, Siegrist falling to the ground to clutch a back post header from close range.
Celtic’s hopes of a tenth straight title pretty much ended when the Parkhead board decided against making a change of manager in October and November. On March 7, with six league games to go, the shrill of referee Kevin Clancy’s whistle made the matter official.
Celtic’s Jonjoe Kenny stares despondently into the grass as Rangers’ title win is confirmed