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Season 2013/14 will undoubtedly be remembered as the season that United’s young stars came to the fore. By the end of the season the names of Nadir Ciftci, Stuart Armstrong, Andy Robertson and Gary Mackay-Steven were becoming first team regulars and gave United a fast attacking style that would take them all the way to the Scottish Cup final.
In Jackie McNamara’s first full season, notable departures Johnny Russell, Jon Daly, Willo Flood and Barry Douglas were replaced by the likes of Paul Paton, Chris Erskine, Andy Robertson, David Goodwillie on loan, Calum Butcher in his first spell at Tannadice, and Nadir Ciftci.
United’s League form was similar to the last few years. Win a game, draw a game, lose a game, repeat. When United played well, they were brilliant. Fast, attack minded and full of energy. The new young players coming into the side were proving their worth and giving United an invigorated style. Unfortunately, they couldn’t prove it consistently. Still, for an inexperienced side, 4th was a credible finish.
United’s League Cup campaign matched previous years when they reached as far as the quarter-finals, losing out to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The Scottish Cup was to be United’s best hope for silverware. Wins against Kilmarnock, St Mirren and Inverness Caledonian Thistle set up a semi-final encounter against Rangers at Ibrox. The lack of a neutral venue was due to the Commonwealth Games in 2014, but that didn’t stop United securing a memorable 3-1 win with goals from Armstrong, Mackay-Steven and Ciftci. Ciftci’s goal is still remembered to this day by fans due to his celebration before he actually scored.
This win set up a Scottish Cup final with local rivals St Johnstone at Parkhead. Despite their best efforts, including a Ciftci effort against the bar, United couldn’t find a way through against the Perth side, losing 2-0 on the day.