Dundee United in Europe 2012/13

Dundee United will enter the draw for the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Europa League on Friday at 12:30pm.  Their matches will take place on the 2nd and 9th August.  United will be taking part in the tournament for the 3rd consecutive season, and will be keen to improve on their performances in the last two years, having narrowly lost their first tie on each occasion.

The club have a proud European tradition  – they are one of four Scottish clubs to have reached the final of a European trophy.  This will be their 26th season taking part in European competition of some sort.  Famously, the Arabs have a 100% record against Barcelona in European competition, having won 4 matches out of 4.  The only other club with a 100% record against the Catalan giants are Slovan Bratislava, who only faced them once.

Dundee United are quite well travelled, having played teams from 29 different countries.  The only Western European nations they haven’t visited are Wales, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino and the Faroes.  They have made surprisingly few trips to Eastern Europe, and have never played in Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus or any of the Baltic nations.

The countries Dundee United have travelled to on European duty.


Dundee United made their first journey into Europe in 1966/67, playing in the Fairs Cup after a 5th placed finish in the previous season.  After receiving a bye in the 1st Round, they were given a daunting tie against holders Barcelona.  The first leg saw Jerry Kerr’s side travel to the Nou Camp, and they pulled off a sensational upset, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Billy Hainey and Finn Seeman.  They finished the job in front of 28,000 supporters at Tannadice, with Ian Mitchell and another goal from Hainey securing a 2-0 win on the night.  Their next opponents were no more straightforward – they were drawn Italian giants Juventus.  A 3-0 defeat in Turin meant the writing was on the wall, but United managed to restore some pride with a 1-0 win at Tannadice thanks to Finn Dossing.

They competed in the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup with some regularity over the next 15 years, but failed to progress through more than one round until the early 80s.  1981/82 saw the start of a sensational period of success in in Europe under Jim McLean.  That season saw them start off their UEFA Cup campaign in style, thumping Monaco 5-2 in Monte Carlo in Round 1.  A 2-1 defeat at Tannadice in the 2nd leg barely mattered.  In the next round, a 2-0 away deficit against Borussia Monchengladbach was overturned with ease at Tannadice, with 5 different scorers on target in a 5-0 win.  They defeated KFC Winterslag by the same 5-0 scoreline at Tannadice after a goalless first leg to reach the quarter-final against Radnicki Nis.  A 2-0 home win seemed to put McLean’s side in the driving seat, but a 3-0 defeat in Yugoslavia dented their hopes of European success.

They were eliminated at the same stage of the UEFA Cup the following year.  Having beaten PSV, Viking Stavanger and Werder Bremen in the earlier rounds, Bohemians Prague proved too strong in the last 8.  Progression looked possible after a 1-0 defeat in Prague, but couldn’t find a way through at Tannadice as the 2nd leg finished goalless.  They put the disappointment behind them though, securing their only league title with a 2-1 win at Dens Park a couple of months later.
That title success gave them their first, and so far only, shot at the European Cup.  Hamrun Spartans of Malta were easily dispatched in the 1st Round, and a 4-0 win at Tannadice helped them see of Standard Liege in the 2nd Round.  That set up a quarter-final against Rapid Vienna.  A 2-1 defeat away from home set up a nervy night at Tannadice, but Davie Dodds scored the crucial goal which put them through on away goals.  Dundee United thus emulated rivals Dundee in reaching the semi-final of the European Cup – making Dundee the smallest city to achieve such a feat, and also making Scotland the only country with two cities with two European Cup semi-finalists.

The semi final against AS Roma is notorious for the treatment that the United players and staff – especially Jim McLean – received in Rome before, during and after the match, and also for allegations that the Italians bribed the French referee.  United looked on the verge of the final after a 2-0 win at Tannadice, but froze in the hostile atmosphere of Rome, going down 3-0 to bring back memories of the Radnicki match two years earlier.  Roma would end up losing the final on penalties to Liverpool.  McLean still hasn’t forgiven, or forgotten.

Some nice banners welcoming Jim McLean and Dundee United to Rome.

Roma’s players commiserate with Jim McLean and Walter Smith.

The following season, United returned to the UEFA Cup, where they eased through to a 3rd Round tie against Manchester United.  A 2-2 draw at Old Trafford should have given them the springboard to win the tie at home, but instead they went down 3-2.  They suffered an even more disappointing exit at the same stage the following season, losing out to Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax.

They made up for those defeats in the following season’s UEFA Cup (1986/87).  Lens, Universitatea Craiova and Hadjuk Split were eliminated in the first three rounds to set up a quarter-final tie against Barcelona.  A young Kevin Gallacher scored the only goal of the game at Tannadice to give United a lead to take to the Nou Camp.  Barcelona took the lead before half-time, but late goals from John Clark and Iain Ferguson secured a victory on the night, and a place in the semi-final.

Semi-final opponents Borussia Monchengladbach were seeking revenge for that 5-0 defeat a few years earlier, and would have been confident of reaching the final after holding United to a 0-0 draw at Tannadice.  But Dundee United turned in a sensational performance to win 2-0 in Germany courtesy of goals from Iain Ferguson and Ian Redford.  That set up a two-legged final against Swedish side IFK Gothenburg.  The final proved to be a step too far.  McLean’s side lost 1-0 in the first leg in Sweden, and couldn’t overturn the deficit at Tannadice, drawing 1-1.

That would prove to be the final hurrah for that talented United side, and they have not progressed through more than one round in any season since then.  Their most notable achievement since then was a crushing 17-0 aggregate win over Andorran side CE Principat in 1997/98 UEFA Cup, with Robbie Winters and Gary McSwegan each scoring 6 times over the two legs.

Their last three campaigns have ended nearly as quickly as they started.  In 2005/06 they were embarrassed by Finnish side MyPa, throwing away a two-goal lead at home to go out on away goals after a goalless first leg.  In 2010/11, they were handed a tough draw against AEK Athens, and looked out of it after a 1-0 home defeatSome farcical circumstances in Athens meant that the away leg was played without any Greek fans, and United almost took advantage, missing a couple of late chances as they drew 1-1 on the night.

In last season’s UEFA Cup, they were again given a tough tie against Slask Wroclaw (who would go on to win the Polish title).  A 1-0 defeat in Poland gave United a good chance of progression, and they raced into a 2-0 lead within 5 minutes thanks to goals from Keith Watson and David Goodwillie.  The Poles struck back 10 minutes later, but a Jon Daly penalty on the stroke of half-time gave them a 3-2 aggregate lead.  Despite having the bulk of the play, United couldn’t find another goal to seal things and, inevitably, Sebastian Dudek lashed in a 25 yarder to give Slask a crucial away goal.

2012/13 Campaign

Dundee United will enter this year’s Europa League at the 3rd Qualifying Round as a result of their 4th place finish in last season’s SPL.  They will need to win two ties to make it through to the lucrative group stage.
Europa League 3rd Qualifying Round

Matches: 2nd August & 9th August

The draw for the 3rd Qualifying Round is made before the 2nd Qualifying Round is completed, so the seedings for this draw are based on the assumption that every seeded team will win in the previous round.

In advance of the draw, the teams have been allocated (presumably randomly?) into smaller “draw groups” containing 10 or 12 teams.  This is done to prevent clubs from the same country meeting each other, and also to cut down on the draw time.

UEFA have already released the draw groups, so we know that Dundee United will be in Group Two.  That means that their possible opponents have been narrowed down to the following clubs.

Bursaspor are the only ones who Dundee United have met before in European competition.  That meeting was back in the 1974/75 Cup Winners’ Cup, and the Turkish side came out on top thanks to a goalless draw at Tannadice and a 1-0 win in Bursa.  Dundee United would be making their first visit to Moldova, Russia, Bulgaria or Slovenia should they end up facing the sides from those countries.

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Providing statistics and trivia about Scottish football. Main focus is the SPL, but all Scottish football will be covered. Not affiliated to the SPL.

One Response to Dundee United in Europe 2012/13

  1. Pingback: Back home they’ll be thinking about you | Always play to the whistle!

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