Football Expert & Columnist
Andy Walker looks at why few Rangers fans will be making the trip to Dundee Utd for the Scottish Cup.
Last Updated: 29/01/13 10:30am
When Dundee United host Rangers this weekend in the first of two Scottish Cup fifth round ties live on Sky, the bad feelings between the two clubs may spill over.
Even though a few hundred Rangers fans will attend the game at Tannadice, the Ibrox club have refused to take up their allocation of tickets for the match in protest at United's opposition to Rangers application to re-join the SPL in the wake of liquidation.
Terrors chairman Stephen Thomson was viewed by most inside Ibrox as being one of the most outspoken in determining the Gers' punishment for the spectacular financial mismanagement of their club.
Ally McCoist would of course prefer to have his team backed by its usual strong travelling support - but he too has supported chief executive Charles Green's decision to take a very public stance.
Official Rangers supporters groups are all in agreement that they'd rather not give any of their money to United and the truth is that the relationship between the clubs has never been more strained.
Since being placed in Scottish football's lowest tier, Rangers have played SPL opponents twice at Ibrox in the League Cup - beating Motherwell very comfortably before losing to Inverness Caley Thistle.
This will be their biggest test of the season by far, away to an experienced Dundee Utd side that parted company with manager Peter Houston on Monday. Houston had already announced he would be leaving Tayside at the end of the season having refused to extend his current contract.
With the club preparing for severe cut-backs on the current budget, young First Division managers like Partick Thistle's Jackie McNamara and Falkirk's Steven Pressley are now on the radar of the United board. Neither of these men have ever had a big budget for players and enjoyed relative success with smaller clubs, hence the belief that they can do similar work at a higher level.
I was at Tannadice on Saturday to see United play out a 1-1 draw with Ross County - and they go into this clash with the unfamiliar tag of favourites. Sean Dillon and Gavin Gunning offer experience at the back; Willo Flood and John Rankin provide the same in midfield while the flair of Mackay-Steven, Russell and Armstrong is a big plus for any side.
Captain Jon Daly is the obvious physical threat and his contest with the likes of Ross Perry and Chris Hegarty will be significant.
Ally McCoist must turn to his senior players to try and match the experience of United. With a 20-point lead at the top of the Third Division table, the title will be theirs soon enough. Competing against experienced pros in the top flight is a different matter. Lee McCulloch has shown leadership qualities all season but others such as Lee Wallace, Ian Black and Dean Shiels have had very inconsistent seasons against part-time opponents.
Given the bad feeling surrounding the game, it's important for both sets of players to keep a sense of discipline. The referee will also be aware of a potential powder keg clash and may well stamp his authority at the first sign of trouble.
Having watched both sides a few times this season, United's superior experience and intensity of play should see them come out on top.