In years gone by, Celtic managers might have been expected to take their foot off the gas with a 4-0 lead at half-time and an Old Firm game six days away.
That is not Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic, which could well explain why, at the break, eager statisticians were already frantically scrambling through the record books.
Five games undefeated at the start of the season is nothing new, but Celtic did not just cut Dundee United open in Sunday’s 9-0 humiliation, they gutted them.
In the process, they racked up Celtic’s largest ever away victory in the league, breaking a record which had stood since 1988 when Mark McGhee and Frank McAvennie both scored hat-tricks in an 8-0 thrashing of Hamilton.
“That’s part of the kind of football team we want to be,” said Postecoglou. “It’s not just how we play, it’s our intent which is to keep going all the time, to not let the scoreboard or circumstances dictate how we go about things.”
Nine unanswered goals, seven scored from closer than 12 yards. Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada both nailed hat-tricks while, Jota, Josip Juranovic and Carl Starfelt also got in on the act.
The defending champions are now back on top of the Scottish Premiership table, but with Rangers just two points below.
“Apart from Kyogo’s second, the goals were the good work of other people,” said Postecoglou, whose side begin their League Cup defence at Ross County on Wednesday before a mouthwatering Premiership visit from Rangers on Saturday.
The Celtic boss added: “It’s about setting our own standards and making sure we’re the best we can be every time we’re out there.
“We’re not going to measure our progress or success because we don’t know what the end point is, we don’t want to put a limit on the team we want to be.
“We knew Dundee United are going through a rough spell. They’re probably a bit vulnerable today and we got on top of them early which allowed us to play our football.”
‘Humiliating’ but Ross wants to ‘put it right’
On the receiving end of the Celtic assault was a United side that has now conceded 23 goals in four games. Eight of those came in the final hour against Celtic.
Jack Ross has lost five on the spin as United manager and already faces real scrutiny after only 69 days in his post, with the team two points adrift at the bottom.
“Humiliating and embarrassing,” was how the 46-year-old summed up his emotions after United’s heaviest-ever home defeat.
“We offer [the supporters] an apology because it’s nowhere near good enough. You shouldn’t concede that number of goals at any level of football, irrespective of the standard of the opponent.
“We’re continually looking for answers but right now we haven’t found them. I’ll take my share of criticism and the players need to own their responsibility.
“And because of the embarrassment and humiliation I feel right now then, absolutely, I want to put that right.”
‘I don’t know how they come back from this’ – analysis
Incredibly, Celtic’s second goal did not come until the 40th minute. United had held out fairly well, albeit playing most of the first half on the back foot.
However, the final 10 minutes of the first half and the entire 45 will go down as one of the worst hours of football in United’s history.
Captain Ryan Edwards insists the players must take the bulk of the blame. “We are 100% [behind the manager]. We know as players we’ve let him down, we’ve let each other down, the fans, the staff, and our families,” he said.
“I don’t think us, as players, could argue if we lost our positions at the club. There shouldn’t be fingers pointed at staff, or at the board.”
While Ross is determined to be allowed to lead United out of their current mess, the pressure has intensified on the manager just days after sporting director Tony Asghar said his job was not under threat.
“I honestly don’t know how United or Jack Ross come back from this,” former United striker Steven Thompson told BBC Sportsound. “I do think he is in serious danger of losing his job.
Former United midfielder Craig Easton added: “United were mentally scarred from the 7-0 defeat to AZ Alkmaar. What does this now do them? This is worse and scary thing is it could have been a lot more.”
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