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United’s 2011-12 season could be summed up with one of Jim McLean’s sayings, a transitional season! In all, 17 players left Tannadice for pastures new. Notably, top scorer and twice Scottish Young Player of the Year, David Goodwillie. His transfer to Blackburn Rovers netted the club £2 million. Other notable exits also included David Robertson, Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben, Craig Conway and Darren Dodds. Many of these players are still fondly remembered for their 2010 Scottish Cup exploits, but it was now time for Peter Houston to rebuild the squad.
United signed nine players for the 2011-12 season. Notable signings were John Rankin, who would go on to make over 170 appearances in tangerine, Willo Flood returned to Tannadice after 2 previous loan spells for the 3rd of his four spells as a United player, Gary Mackay-Steven, who would make over 100 appearances, and Gavin Gunning for the first of his two spells at United.
United’s previous season had seen the Club finish 4th in the Scottish Premier League and reach the quarter-finals of both the Scottish Cup and League Cup. Despite such a huge change in personnel, United maintained a mirror image by finishing the 2021-12 season with exactly the same results. They also fell at the first hurdle in the Europa League too, this time against Slask Wroclaw of Poland. A 1-0 defeat in Poland in the first leg set up a breath-taking home tie with four first half goals and United leading the game 3-1, and most notably 3-2 on aggregate. A tense second half saw United hold out until the 75th minute when another Wroclaw goal made it 3-2 on the night and sent the Poles through to the 3rd qualifying round.
United’s form for the season was similar to recent years in that they couldn’t string together a consistent run of wins to allow them to progress in the league or the cups. They played a total of 45 games that season, winning 20, losing 13 and drawing 12. Similar to the previous season, they saved their best run till March when they went on a 6 game winning streak that saw them score 16 goals in the process and concede just 1. Prior to this, United had struggled to win more than 1 game on the bounce. As it was, United still managed a credible 4th place in the League, ensuring another qualification for next season’s Europa League.
United’s Scottish Cup form looked promising with a 6-2 win away against Airdrie in the 4th round thanks to a Johnny Russell hat-trick. They recorded a memorable 5th round victory against Rangers at Ibrox with two first half goals from Gunning and Russell securing a 2-0 win. The quarter-final would be as far as United progressed though as an in form Celtic side won 4-0 at Tannadice.
United’s League Cup run also finished at the quarter-final stage. A 2-2 draw after extra-time against Falkirk at Tannadice led to the Bairns winning the penalty shoot-out 5-4.